Simon and I started a new tradition last year – a lunch date at our beloved Big Shucks discussing the past year and framing up the new year. Thank you, Ann Voskamp, for your excellent freebies to help us focus our goals in such a measurable way! (If you’ve never done this before, we highly recommend it.)
This lunch date was an integral part of living life purposefully this past year and I’m looking forward with eager anticipation to what 2017 will bring because of it. I do plan to continue blogging here, but during the course of “framing” 2017, I decided that I needed to spend more time writing offline than online this year. Blogging takes a lot of time and while I enjoyed blogging last year immensely, my focus has shifted for 2017.
The days leading up to our date I felt the Lord prompting me to go deeper with Him this year, to take a topic I am woefully unlearned in and saturate myself with what His Word says about it during the course of the entire year. In 2017, I’m going to sink my teeth into the reality of WHO I AM IN CHRIST and I look forward to sharing what the Lord shows me from time-to-time by blogging about it. My blogging will look sporadic compared to last year’s more regularly shared devotionals & Summer Bible Study, but I hope each post will help you to see just who YOU are in Christ in a clearer, sharper way, too.
Charlotte Bronte penned this inspiring line in my all-time favorite novel, Jane Eyre. I think about this quote often. I aspire for this quote to be fleshed out in my life like it was in Jane’s. The truth of the matter is that this is a constant internal struggle for me. My heart tends to hold on to the hurts inflicted on me, either intentionally or unintentionally, from others. I quickly cry out against others when they are too harsh, too judgmental, or too hypocritical.
When I am the offender, however, I just as quickly excuse my own wrong behavior by saying, “God isn’t finished with me yet.” The inference is that I am a work in progress; I deserve forgiveness because I’m still learning.
I think that tendency is what God had in mind when He penned (through Paul) –
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ forgave you. -Ephesians 4:32
Just as God through Christ forgave you. The times in which my life has most successfully mirrored Jane Eyre’s words have been those times in which I have remembered that my offender, too, is a work in progress. God isn’t finished with them yet, either. And by offering the same grace that I expect, I am learning how to forgive, just as God through Christ forgave me.
PONDER: Is there someone in your life against whom you are nursing animosity? Are you mentally keeping a register of the wrongs committed against you? Let’s wipe the slate clean today and choose to walk with them in forgiveness, just as God through Christ forgave you.
Forgiving One Another is one of thirty devotionals I’ve written as part of a friend’s devotional project. You can read more short devotionals like this by clicking here or the Devotionals tab at the top of this page.
Have you ever realized how many of the verses in the Bible dealing with our personal growth and maturity in Christ involve direct interaction with other people, other sinners?
People can be annoying.
People can be chafing.
People can burrow under your skin with their insensibility.
Some can be so prickly that interaction with them is akin to hugging a hedgehog.
Amazingly, God has commanded us to live in community with other believers, to bear with the annoying, to be polished by the chafing, and to be changed by the process of living life with one another. That adds much needed perspective to those interactions that could otherwise provoke an emotional and divisive reaction. What if you could see such individuals as gifts from God sent for your sanctification instead of criticizing or avoiding them? What if you could actually THANK the prickly people for being avenues through which God chose to mature you?
PONDER: Think of the prickly people in your life. How could their annoyances be used to build your character? Thank God for providentially placing them in your life.
PRAYER: Father, thank You for the prickly people you have placed in my life. Thank you that through interaction with them, You are adding to my own character and molding me more like Jesus. Help me, Father, to truly appreciate them as avenues of my sanctification.
The Art of One Anothering is one of thirty devotionals I’ve been asked to write this year as part of a friend’s year-long devotional project. You can read more short devotionals like this by clicking here or the Devotionals tab at the top of this page.
Because of what I shared here on Monday, I wanted to follow up with some encouragement for those who are currently experiencing brokenness and are “feeling the feels” today. Know this – God loves you and there is help to be found in Him.
The butterfly emerged as the symbol of the Women’s Retreat I helped plan last year. Our theme was brokenness and the butterfly’s life cycle beautifully illustrated that.
Some types of brokenness are like the caterpillar who molts, or sheds its skin and grows from the experience into a larger caterpillar who will at some point be broken again and grow from the experience into yet a larger caterpillar who will at some point be broken again…and again…and again. For a caterpillar, this is called molting. For all of us, this is called life. Experiencing this kind of brokenness is as universal to human beings as it is to that growing little caterpillar – a failed test in school; not getting that promotion at work; hurtful gossip whispered behind your back; feeling excluded from a group that you desperately want to fit into; unreturned romantic feelings…
There comes a point in every caterpillar’s life when it will go through something it has never gone through before! Instead of the brokenness it is used to experiencing in its life, it won’t be able to struggle through it and come out on the other side a bigger, better version of itself. Instead, it will become completely enveloped; it will be penned in, immobilized by something beyond his control, entombed. If you asked the fat little caterpillar if it would choose to be entombed in the chrysalis, it would undoubtedly say ‘No!’ It would prefer to keep to its cycle of manageable brokenness. It was used to it. While it caused it pain, it could handle it and it was bigger and stronger on the other side of it. This new thing, this new brokenness, is confining, painful, scary. Unknown and unsearched for, it is woefully beyond the butterfly’s management and personal control. It feels alone, unable to see outside its own pain.
Many of us have experienced these immobilizing types of brokenness – widowhood; divorce; miscarriage; cancer; long-term unemployment; depression; wayward children. Like the caterpillar inside its chrysalis, we were morphed and changed into something new altogether. We were transformed through that painful process and finally broke free, becoming unshackled from the constraints of life as a mere caterpillar to soar on the heights as a new creation, a beautiful butterfly.
Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory.
They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength.
(1 Corinthians 15:43 NLT)
Perhaps you have felt that type of brokenness, but haven’t yet emerged from your confining chrysalis. You haven’t experienced a breaking free moment and the pain is all you can focus upon right now.
Research verses that speak to your brokenness. Compile a list like the one here. Highlight them in your Bible. Use them as prayer prompts until you are raised in strength like that broken butterfly.
You are loved, beautifully broken friend, and there is hope to be found in Jesus.
An impending lay-off. A broken relationship. Financial distress. Health issues. Car trouble. Simply living life provides us daily with circumstances that can prompt us to cry out to God for help. But what if there was something more we could do? I believe this psalm gives us that something more – praise Him as we cry out for help. Think about it. He is worthy of praise even if His answers to our cries for help don’t align with our expectations. Psalm 66 teaches us to voice our praise even as we cry out in our current circumstances. Praising God redirects our attention from what needs saving, to the One Who saves. We praise Him, not because of the outcome, but because of Who He is, regardless of the outcome.
How our perspectives would change if we praised Him as we cried out to Him instead of waiting to see how He answered!
PONDER: What circumstances keep you crying out to God for help? In those same circumstances, how could you praise Him even as you cried out to Him for help?
Crying Out is one of thirty devotionals I’ve been asked to write this year as part of a friend’s year-long devotional project. You can read more short devotionals like this by clicking here or the Devotionals tab at the top of this page.
I struggle when life looks differently than I had planned. In my plan, my children all have perfect testimonies of growing up in a Christian home, never having tasted what the world has to offer, never dipping a toe in the cesspool of sin, never wrestling with God over anything. My children learn from their parents’ mistakes without having to make any of their own. My children’s plans differ from my plan. They are tripped by sin. They make mistakes. They choose poorly. They give in to temptation. Sometimes it seems there is a wide chasm between their plan for them and my plan for them. I cringe when I see them struggle. I grieve when they wrestle God. But Jesus. Because of Jesus, their temptations are turned into invitations. Because of Jesus, their poor choices are reclaimed. Because of Jesus, every mistake is redeemed. No struggle is wasted. No sin is too great that God cannot recycle it. Somewhere in the middle, spanning that chasm between our different plans, I think, might be God’s plan for them.
PONDER: What plans do you need to release to God today?
But Jesus is one of thirty devotionals I’ve been asked to write this year as part of a friend’s year-long devotional project. I look forward to taking this step outside of my comfort zone by sharing what the Lord is showing me. My hope is that you will find a place here where you feel comfortable in taking that step with me.
I have been pondering John 18:11 this morning and the two opposite sides of the coin represented when it comes to surrendering to God’s will.
Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
On the one hand, I want desperately to be like Jesus, trusting and accepting and following as God directs my life. I want to live in unreserved surrender to His plan in an “all in” kind of way. On the other hand (the one that struggles for dominance), instead of accepting the cup with the trust in God that Jesus displayed, I’m more like, “Well, let’s have a look in that cup first.” I want to discuss – to bargain – with God until we come to some sort of mutualagreement before I take my cup. As one hand reaches for the cup God is handing to me, the other tightens on the sword at my side in a struggle with the desire to have veto power over God’s plan for me.
PONDER: In what areas in your relationship with God do you struggle with wanting veto power? Which hand will you give dominance to today?
Veto Power is one of thirty devotionals I’ve been asked to write this year as part of a friend’s year-long devotional project. I look forward to taking this step outside of my comfort zone by sharing what the Lord is showing me. My hope is that you will find a place here where you feel comfortable in taking that step with me.