Space

It’s the dreaded error message that has frustrated technology users from the beginning of time (or at least since the days of the floppy disk):

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And although we’ve drastically increased our average hard drive size over the years (those old disks wouldn’t even hold one photo now!), we still keep running out of space. From kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes to terabytes – it seems the more we get, the more we need.

I’ve been particularly annoyed lately – between my now over-a-year-old phone and my iPad (which I share with my photo-happy children), I can’t seem to download anything new without deleting another app (or 157 selfies) first! Which means in order to say “yes” to one thing – I have to say “no” to something else.

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Last week I shared about a major turning point in my life – the day in 2012 when I finally committed to getting up early and spending time with God on a daily basis. I had made excuses for many years – especially the one about “not having time”. I now understood that I would never have the time if I didn’t make the time.

I remember saying to Tim the night before my first official morning: “Well, here we go. Alarm set for 5:30. Every day. This is it.” I hated getting up early, but I knew it had to be done – so I did it.

Nearly every day for many months I was up before 6:00. I studied the Bible, journaled, and prayed. After just a few weeks, I was hooked and couldn’t believe what I had been missing out on all those years! I felt a deeper connection with Jesus than I had felt for a long time, and I knew He was clearly speaking to me through His Word.

I had finally said “yes” to God, and it was changing my life!

Unfortunately, just like my phone has a space capacity, so does my life. Adding something to my day meant that something else was going to have to go. And as a busy, part-time working mother of three, I said “no” to the only thing I could justify – sleep.

As a youth leader, I worked late two nights a week. And if I wasn’t at work, that time after getting my kids to bed was my only time to get actual ‘work’ done. Not to mention the laundry. And the paperwork and projects and email. And soon it was 11… 11:30… 12:15…

By the following summer I was melting down into a sleep-deprived emotional wreck and my family was feeling the effects. The error messages were everywhere: “WARNING! WARNING! Insufficient space!” I was attempting to squeeze it all in – and what was being squeezed out in the process was apparently a necessary element in my ability to function properly (or at least politely) as a human being.

If you’ve ever had a computer, phone, or other device that was low on storage you know that getting anywhere near that “0 MB remaining” line doesn’t just mean you can’t add more stuff – it means your doomed to random crashes, slow processing, and loads of other malfunctions. And freeing up only enough space to fit that new download may work – for a few minutes – but pretty soon you’ll be right back there looking for something else to delete. In most cases, there’s some major cleaning out that needs to be done!

After realizing the source of my malfunction, the next year became a time of reorganizing and reprioritizing. Sleep was restored and it was clear that some other stuff had to be dragged to the trash can.

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First, I uninstalled “Supermom”. I said goodbye to thinking I would ever get it together to be ‘that mom’ I always thought I would be. I said goodbye to the pressure to pay every waking moment of my attention to my children and goodbye to the pressure to Pinterest-perfectly shape their lives and their well-being. I said goodbye to volunteering in the school, goodbye to arranging regular playdates, and goodbye to the preschool pick-up line comparison game.

Next came “Awesome Youth Leader”. Ministry, like many jobs that involve working with people, is a 24-7 gig and there’s really no such thing as ‘part-time’. There’s so much more I could be doing and even if I worked ‘full-time’ I would barely scratch the surface! So I said goodbye to the guilt and the perceived expectations – and started making ‘part-time’ more of a reality than a paycheck.

Also uninstalled were “Exceptional Wife,” “Marathon Runner,” and “Anything-to-do-with-having-a-clean-and-organized-house” (oh wait, I’m not sure that one was ever downloaded in the first place ;))

There are many nights where the temptation to re-download is real. Many nights where I get everyone off to bed and think, “I could do it. I could just pull out that project or get on my computer or get that massive pile of laundry put away. It would only take a couple hours, right?” There are many nights when I give in – and truthfully, it never ends well!

It turns out that the whole thing wasn’t as much about getting up early as it was saying “no” to my self and my pride and going to bed early. When it comes to the limited amount of space I have in my life, John the Baptist said it perfectly: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

In order to say this “yes” to God, I’ve had to say “no” to many other good things. “Making” this time for Him was not a matter of manufacturing a few more gigs to plug in to my day, but more of a matter of choosing Him (and my sanity) over a whole lot of stuff that wasn’t as necessary as I originally thought.

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And as much as I’d love to come up with the perfect line to end this, it’s 10:30pm – so I think I’ll uninstall “Spectacular Blog Writer” and get myself to bed.

“Cause all I know is
Everything I have means nothing
Jesus if You’re not my one thing
Everything I need right now”

(Hillsong, “One Thing”)

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Medicine

“If you use a rescue inhaler two or more times a week, your asthma is not well-controlled and you should talk to your doctor.”

When I heard the words of this TV commercial as a college student, I laughed. “What are they talking about? I use my inhaler every day and my asthma is totally under control! That’s ridiculous!”

But a few months later, when my doctor started me on the very medication that commercial was advertising, I realized how wrong I was. “The important thing” she said, “is that you take it every day, even if your symptoms aren’t bad – it needs to build up in your system in order to be effective in preventing asthma symptoms.”

And she was right. I can now count on one hand the number of times I use my rescue inhaler every year – and the times I have to use it are only because I’ve been neglecting my daily medicine.

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Around that same time, having recently committed my life to Christ, I was spending time every day reading a devotional, journaling, and praying. My relationship with God was growing and I was learning what it meant to do everyday life with Him.

But then one day a friend said to me, “It’s great that you’re doing that, but be careful you don’t get legalistic about it!”

As a student at a Christian college, “legalism” was a four-letter-word. The last thing I wanted was for my relationship with God to become about regiment and rules! I didn’t want anyone to think I was just doing it because that’s what “good Christians” did or to show that I was somehow better than them. I know my friend meant well, but for me this was the beginning of the end.

I started missing days here and there. Then weeks here and there. College life was busy and the homework was endless. Pretty soon I got a boyfriend and an internship. Which turned into a husband and a job and full-time ministry life. Oh yeah, and then we had kids.

During those years, my time with God and His Word came in fits and spurts – when I was working on lessons, doing Bible study homework, or when I knew I needed God’s help. It was my rescue inhaler. I knew the daily dose would be better, but I didn’t really have time and besides, I didn’t want to be legalistic about it. If I wasn’t really feeling it, I didn’t want to force it.

By the summer of 2012, though, I was struggling – gasping for air because the ‘rescue inhaler’ wasn’t working anymore.

That was when my friend Kathleen approached me about joining an online accountability group for women who were committed to spending regular time with God before starting their days.* It sounded crazy (and maybe even legalistic), but I knew it was time for a change, so first I laughed at her (I’m NOT a morning person) and then I signed up.

And it was exactly what the doctor ordered:

“The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7-8)

It turns out I desperately needed this medicine!

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When I started my new daily asthma medication all those years ago, I had trouble remembering to take it, so I made a note and taped it up on my dorm room wall. It may have seemed a little silly for a 22-year-old to need this, but I had to start somewhere! I knew it would eventually become habit, but for now I had to force it.

The funny thing is that once I saw the benefits of the medicine and how much it improved the quality of my days – I didn’t need the reminders anymore! Taking it just became part of my daily life.

No matter how much I didn’t want to force myself to spend regular time with God, I had to start somewhere. So even though I dreaded the thought of getting up early (or even worse – putting aside my to-do list and going to bed early), I set my alarm and just did it.

And once I saw the benefits – how much it improved the quality of my life and my relationship with God – my perspective changed. I still need an alarm (yep, still NOT a morning person), but when I go to bed at night, I actually can’t wait to get up because I look forward to my “Jesus time” so much!

Yes, even if my ‘symptoms’ aren’t bad, I still take my (almost) daily dose. The effects may not be immediate and visible, but I know God’s Word is being built up in my system. It may have started out as a regimen, but now it’s my life. You can call it “legalism” all you want, but it’s my medicine – and I don’t know what I’d do without it!

*www.hellomornings.org

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Affect

In elementary schools it’s the source of many giggles and whispers. For the middle-schooler, it’s a queasy, uneasy feeling when that special someone walks in the room. It’s that longing in the pit of your stomach when life can’t.possibly.go.on because your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t with you 24 hours a day. It’s the beat your heart skips when you realize you’ve found ‘the one’.

It’s the warm, settled satisfaction when you know you’re in the presence of a true friend – and the feeling you’ve just been punched in the stomach when you find out they might not be so true after all. It’s that sinking sensation when someone you care for has been taken away from you and that gut-wrenching desire to help when you witness someone in pain. And it’s the unexplainable, suddenly-willing-to-give-your-own-life kind of affection that overtakes you at the birth of your first child.

Affection is affection because these feelings we have affect us. Something inside of us changes – or at least gets messed with when love takes hold. Sometimes it calms us, sometimes it makes us brave, and sometimes it just makes us do crazy things.

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In our modern world, as evidenced by our emojis and “like” symbols, we look at the heart as the source of this emotion. Especially at this time of year, we are reminded that those feelings that draw us to others in love come from the inside – from the organ whose rhythm sustains our very life.

But if the ancient world had Twitter, their “like” symbol would not have been displayed all over cards and used as a shape for candy, because for them the seat of the emotions was a lot closer to their actual seat. Yes, the “bowels” were looked at as the place where those deepest human emotions originated.

My favorite (❤) reference to this in the Bible is found in Luke 15 where Jesus tells the story of a father whose son has insulted and then abandoned him. When the son hits rock bottom and comes to his senses, he decides to return, hoping his father will have an ounce of mercy and take him on as a hired worker.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

This father’s affection affected him. Not only did he refuse to give up hope as he waited and watched for his son, but when he saw him, he did something a father in that time would have humiliated himself to do – he ran to his rebellious son and greeted him as he would have had he never sinned. But it wasn’t just the father’s actions that were affected.

The Greek word for the “compassion” he was “filled with” is splagchnizomai, which means “to be moved as to one’s bowels”*. The word itself is what we might refer to today as onomatopoeia – a word that sounds like what it is. As you say splagchnizomai (three times fast!), you can almost feel the deep, guttural movement of your inner parts as, like the father in the story, your deepest emotions just spew out of you.

Jesus told this story to give us a picture of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. It’s no cute little flutter of emotion, no passing appearance- or action-dependent partiality – His affection toward us reaches to the very core of who He is. And Jesus, as God in the flesh, showed the depth of this compassion when He willingly hung on a cross – allowing His side to be pierced and the blood from the deepest parts of his human body to be poured out to bring us back to Himself.

As much as feeling affection affects us, there’s just as much affecting that happens when we are the recipients of affection. Something about us changes when we know we are loved.

For example, when our oldest daughter has one of those moments where she knows without a doubt that she is loved, she quite literally bounces off the walls – or at least tries to climb them. Our middle daughter grins from ear to ear and begins laughing obnoxiously. And our youngest snuggles in, closes her eyes and starts talking baby talk (also fairly obnoxious at times, but she gets away with it because she is, after all, the baby!).

For me, I talk… and talk and talk and talk (if you don’t believe me, ask my extraordinarily compassionate – and patient – husband). But in those moments when I’m fully aware of God’s love – that the splagchnizomai of God applies to me and the very deepest parts of who I am – I shut up.

Which is why Zephaniah 3:17 has become one of my favorite verses:
“The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”

How does God’s affection affect you?

Maybe you’ve never believed that it’s true or that it could possibly apply to you. Maybe you thought you were disqualified because you ran away from it. Maybe it calms you, makes you brave, or makes you do crazy things this world would call foolish. Maybe it makes you bounce of the walls or laugh obnoxiously. Maybe it makes you close your eyes and long deep inside to just be with Him. Maybe it makes your heart skip a beat because you know you’ve found the One.

His love is real – so let Him throw His arms around you and kiss you – and allow it to change you today!

*https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g4697

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Risk

As a family, we believe that life is meant to be an adventure. When our kids look back at their childhoods, we hope that they will not only see a highlight reel of outdoor adventure experiences, but also be convinced that every day life also holds the potential for great challenge and thrill!

Thus far, our plan appears to be working. Maybe a little too well…

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Unfortunately, along with every adventure comes risk. Yes, we do a lot of fun stuff, but it never comes without the chance that someone will get hurt. We’ve certainly had our fair share of bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes, and, of course, the tears that come along with them.

But one of our other great ambitions as parents is to teach our children the value of choice. We operate, as Tim calls it, on a “challenge by choice” basis – meaning if you don’t want to participate, that is your choice. But if you do choose to participate, you must understand that “risky activity may lead to potentially painful consequences”. You may get hurt, but you must understand that you took that risk!

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So, when you decide you want to try ‘snowboarding’ on a plastic sled down an icy, hard driveway, you may experience quite a thrill! But you also may end up falling flat on your back – OUCH!

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And making yourself a snowbank-chair where you can get a front-row seat on your sisters’ antics is never a risk-free activity…

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After over 20 years of being a member of the body of Christ and actively serving in this body, I’ve learned that ministry is never a risk-free activity. Getting involved in what God is doing in the hearts and lives of others can be thrilling – there’s nothing like witnessing God on the move and knowing you were a part of it! However, the adventures of serving God never come without possibility of painful consequences.

After all:

You may be taken advantage of. Having a heart that is willing to serve wherever, whenever is key. But since those hearts are few and far between, that often gives you a fast forward to the top of the volunteer list. Others may even decide you’re so willing and so good at what you do, you must not need them anymore (and *poof* they’re gone!).

Your efforts may go unnoticed. The majority of ministry happens behind the scenes and the time, energy, and heart that you pour into a person, group of people, or task may never be recognized. You may never be thanked or honored – in fact all you may ever get are complaints because…

Someone may disagree with what you’re doing or the way you’re doing it. No matter how confident you are, it’s still no fun to be told you’re wrong. Though most critics are well-meaning on some level, there’s a strong possibility the good you are doing will take a back seat to what they think you could be doing better. And speaking of people…

You may be hurt by someone you serve or serve with. The church is full of broken people, which means your chances of exposure to brokenness (and therefore hurt) in ministry are right around 100%.

You may mess something up. Since you and I are among those broken and flawed people, we don’t always make the best choices. Even those of us who diligently strive to seek and obey God in our ministry activities still have our judgment clouded by self and rush and fear every once in a (short) while. In other words, this one’s a guarantee!

You may even find out it’s not your gifting after all. Those first steps of getting involved in a ministry are often hindered by the nagging questions of “What if I’m not good at that?” or “How do I even know what I’m good at?”. Yes, there’s at least a small possibility that all the effort and time and energy you poured into a specific ministry may feel like a waste when you find out it’s just not your thing.

And finally, your ministry may appear ineffective. Since most of God’s work happens in the heart – in the deep places of the soul that are not visible to the general public, and since God isn’t in a rush like we are, the probability of you seeing that immediate, visible ‘fruit’ you think you need to see is low. Even if you are seeing some ‘results,’ they will rarely feel proportionate to the effort you’re putting in!

As parents, we recently added a new ending to this much repeated family phrase. It now goes something like this: “Risky activity? Potentially painful consequences. Totally worth it.” When I say this to my girls as they’re deciding whether or not to try something (or more often after the tears of failure or injury have ensued), I’m reminding them that the experience of adventure trumps the “OUCH!” that might happen as a result.

When I accepted Christ and then committed my life to ministry, I was ready for adventure! I knew I would be ‘stretched’ and ‘challenged’, but my naive self had no idea the kind of risk I was taking! I can safely say I’ve experienced everything on this list – and since I’m not done yet, I’m sure there’s plenty more to come.

But it’s been totally worth it! Even knowing that one person came to know Jesus or grew in their relationship with Him – and that I was a part of that – makes it worth all the pain on the other side. As 3 John 1:4 states: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Other than the joy of knowing God ourselves, there is no greater thrill than the experience of seeing others come to know Him – or know Him better!

Yes, you may be taken advantage of and your hard work may never be appreciated. Yes, the critics may arise and the relationships might get tricky. Yes, you will make mistakes and it may even feel like you’re wasting your time. But it’s your choice. The risk of bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes – oh yeah, and the tears that come with them – is real, but I think you’ll find the adventure is totally worth it!

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