No Wasted Days

As a kid I loved stickers. Every single sticker I could get my hands on got a place of honor in my Lisa Frank sticker book. Mostly they were random “good work” stickers from school or a smiling tooth giving a thumb’s up from the dentist’s office. And 90s kids, remember the sticker boxes? They opened like a treasure chest to reveal several individual compartments filled with rolls and stacks of colorful, sparkly stickers. 

I was obsessed, but I never used any of them. To me, the stickers were too beautiful to be used. There was no binder, notebook, or pencil case important enough to deserve them. So they sat unused on a shelf and then in a box. Years later, I threw them out feeling nostalgic and disappointed. In my fear that I’d “waste the good ones”, I unintentionally stripped them of their whole purpose – joy.

I Lost My Joy

I worry all the time that I am “wasting” my days. Here I am, the proud owner of a beautiful collection of blessings, each more lovely than the next. So why do I feel such discontent and never able to truly enjoy them? The minutiae of daily life has more of my attention than joy has. Hey, we all get it — life comes so fast and gets so complicated. Sometimes it feels like you’re just trying to survive day to day. Today as I changed another diaper I wondered to myself when the days won’t all seem like a repeat of the day before, a la Groundhog Day.

I might be doing all the right things: going to church, serving, reading the Bible, etc. But I am not benefitting as I should if I am not resting in that joy of the Lord. I realized that is what I have lost.

Jesus says in John 10:10 that he has come that we “may have life and have it to the full” but he wasn’t referring to long life, wealth, and comfort. 

Rather, a full life to Jesus is one in which there is a perfect marriage of intimacy between Creator and created. That’s where the joy is – in a constant state of harmony between my heart and His. 

How Do I Get The Joy Back?

I’m not alone in this struggle. While the Holy Spirit does the work inside me, I am also working to “…cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in…unanxious and unintimidated” (1 Peter 3:4-5 MSG). It is accomplished by consistent, and intentional decisions to submit to God. Practically, true heartfelt prayer. There’s just no substitute for it.

Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10 CSB

Now I am an adult buying fun stickers for my own daughter. I watched her unapologetically use every single sticker on the page. She didn’t hesitate to use the big sparkly ones as I would have done, and she wasn’t saving the best for last. No, this little girl, yet unspoiled by worry or fear, was simply delighted by them.

Have you lost joy in the Lord? Do your days feel endless and tiring? Bring this to God in prayer.

Dear Father, Thank you for bringing the discontentment we feel to the forefront of our minds. Look down on your daughters who long to love you but who struggle to do this rightly. I pray that you would move in our hearts to spark that joy of your presence again. Fill us with your peace and remind us of your all-encompassing care for our souls. Remind us that you don’t need any help in setting your plans into motion, and that not one of our days are wasted. 

Music to move our spirits

When I’m spiritually dry and worn out, I turn to worship music. Even though I am all about Bible study and journaling, sometimes I just can’t get unstuck. In these times I find that a little humility (I can’t manufacture the desire to praise you God, you have to do this for me!) plus a little variety is the key to get back on track again.

I wanted to share six of my favorite worship songs with you this week. Each one is incredibly special and has moved me to praise and prayer (and tears) at different points of my journey with Jesus. I pray that these songs might inspire you to praise and prayer too, as the Spirit leads.

Leaning into Trust and Constant Prayer

To be honest, I am still seeking a direction and vision for where I want to take this blog. I don’t particularly want to make it a self-indulgent place where I spill my guts, but I feel somewhat indebted to share what I’ve been up to, and how God has worked for, in and through me over the past year. He has been pleased to introduce two major themes to the forefront of my heart.

The first is Trust.

On August 24, 2017, in what cannot be anything other than an act of God I providently discovered that my blood pressure had suddenly rocketed up to 197/95, and refused to come down. I was at 31 weeks and 6 days of my pregnancy, just about 8 weeks shy of the due date. After about 4 hours of steady attempts to bring down my blood pressure to non-life-threatening levels, it turned out that the safest thing was to deliver the baby immediately. And so my little girl Lydia Brienne was born at 9:56 pm, well formed, perfect, and tiny. Due to being premature she spent 2 full months in the NICU, and we her parents faithfully visited every single day, driving back and forth the 15-odd miles to the hospital. It seemed like an eternity to live day by day, rejoicing with each half ounce gained and weeping from frustration of not being able to breastfeed or be there with her.

But God was so good to us – he provided financially, emotionally, spiritually, through family and friends, some of whom we had never even met. I can’t sum up the whole experience in one truncated post, nor do I desire to; there were so many things that happened that deserve attention (postpartum being a big one). However I will say for now that it’s much easier to stand back and see God’s hand moving even in the pain and hardships as we approach baby’s first birthday. In the moment it was hard to appreciate. God provided ample comfort in the form of loving people – nurses, doctors (basically all hospital staff) who lovingly cared for my baby when I couldn’t, church family who prayed, loved on us, and fed us for several weeks after my operation and once the baby came home, family and friends who visited and gave us the space we craved for processing.

The second has been Prayer.

Each year I make the attempt to start at the beginning in my One Year Bible (no judgement, I haven’t made it perfectly, but it’s more than nothing!). But this year I replaced that with a vow to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Before I began to cultivate a constant attitude of prayer, I will be absolutely honest – I found prayer to be boring, time consuming and not amounting to much. I considered it to be a last-ditch effort rarely bring results. That has changed.

I began small, a little prayer said for something that worried or bothered me as I stood in line at the store, or while I did monotonous chores like washing dishes. It was awkward at first, and felt a little silly. But as I did it more I found that more often than not that one little prayer would turn into another and another, longer ones, leading to more heartfelt worship. Prayer has a snowball effect where once I get started it is difficult to stop.

I’m still learning, but the combination of these two ongoing lessons has created an incredible peace that I am staying rooted in Jesus.

Faith as Fuel

Let’s say you are working in a job that you can’t stand, or have duties/responsibilities that feel more like drudgery than blessing. Some of us have sick elderly parents to tend, or needy friends who constantly take and never give. You don’t feel that the paycheck of your 9-5 job is worth the stress you take home at the end of every shift. What do you do? To which thing or person do you go? What do you tell yourself? For me, it’s Netflix.

First, we should call it what it is. Ok so it’s not turning to the bottle or the needle. I’m not a traditional addict, but instead have chosen a much more “acceptable” way of dealing. I binge watch TV shows. It just wastes time and takes me into another world where problems are solved in 30 minutes. It’s not that bad right? Except that it is just another way of numbing the pain of an underwhelmed soul. There’s no public shame associated with distracting yourself from something you wish would change. Therefore it remains an untouched subject in my heart.

Second, remember that God blesses us in unexpected ways, places, and opportunities. Like I mentioned in my last post, I was enormously depressed because my first job out of college was “beneath my dignity” as a new graduate. Even so, I received many comforts and assurances from God that summer, through my coworkers and managers. (Not to mention a paycheck that got the job done) Then a few months later my favorite aunt invited me to live with her in Maui and work for her company. A job. In Hawaii. With a boss who is invested in my wellbeing. And all the people said AMEN.

What if I had gone straight into a brand new job after college and missed this opportunity? To be sure there are plenty of what-ifs, but this is a big one for me. God’s will for me in this season was the protection and love of family at this time. What might be just around the bend for you?

Third, consult the Lord. He has a plan and a future for you. Can I say it again? He’s on your side. If there’s a chance to make a change, jump for it. Some seasons are inescapable though, no matter how much you pray and try to change it. When we are hurting in this way the last thing we want to hear is an ignorant but well meant “It’s a blessing in disguise”. Let’s skip over those clichés and go straight to the truth.

  1. Pray for strengthened faith

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’” (James 2:17-18 NLT)

We believe in God’s sovereignty and that his purposes get worked out in his time and specific ways. So consider this trial an opportunity to tending our garden in a special way. (James 1:2-4) When we keep working in the face of trials, our faith is proven and strengthened. Faith is the trust that God will do what he promised. Use your faith as fuel to keep on going and god will direct your path.

  1. Pray for patience

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Read this verse over a few times. Do you notice anything interesting? It says that the Lord is patient toward you, not the other way around. He’s not up on his heavenly throne chatting with the Seraphim going, “Yeah, Molly is really getting impatient with this new plan I’m working on for her. I better finish up quickly so she can get on with it!” Ha! On the contrary, who am I to believe my plans and timing as better than the Lord’s? Let’s not forget either – our ultimate purpose is to love God and love each other. THAT is the calling with multiple expressions. So in this season, if I am stuck with no way out, I can still fulfill my purpose while I wait for something better.

Now all that truth sounds really good and all, but let’s be honest. It’s easier said than done. Just because I believe in God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean I like it all the time. The hard part for me is sucking it up and accepting the fact that I am not the master of my own life. Galatians 2:20 says “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”. This is something that each person who follows Jesus must work on accepting but thankfully we don’t have to do it alone.

What do you think? Journal your thoughts as the spirit leads on the verses mentioned above:

  • James 1:2-4
  • James 2:17-18
  • 2 Peter 3:9
  • Galatians 2:20

Thanks for reading this month’s series on Work and Purpose, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to share how the Spirit moved you on the Tea & Testimony facebook page . As a thank you I have created free printables. Print and hang these words of truth where you will see them the most.

The Meltdown

I was out in my garden the other morning when the peaceful reverie of my quiet time was pierced by a mother’s scream.

The family with whom we share our back fence was at it again. I had overheard blowups from this family in the past but I knew right away that this was going to be a bad one. (Don’t get the wrong idea – I love to spend time in my backyard. And let’s just say, one does not have to strain one’s ears to overhear the conversation.)

This one morning in particular, one of the children had apparently eaten an entire bag of carrots. “You’re a fat f–n pig. Do you like being a f–n pig? When you go to school that’s what all the kids are going to say because that’s how kids are in school. You’re a f–n pig.” The window was shut but not soundproof, unbeknownst to her.

It was heartbreaking, infuriating, wrong. Everything in me wanted to march right up to that front door and give her a piece of my mind. I wanted to call CPS and report verbal abuse. I wanted to raise attention to this despicable excuse for a mother. In a flash, my own childhood passed before me.

Now before we rush in with pitchforks, please understand something: I don’t know this woman. Maybe she is truly abusive. But I think it’s much more likely that, like my mother all those years ago, she is overextended, underpaid, and emotionally immature to manage her feelings. Perhaps her marriage is in trouble. Maybe they are in serious debt. Only God knows what heavy burdens lay suffocating her heart. It’s still terrible; I’m not making excuses. We must learn not to equate the person with their sin. After all, the same God who is able to heal me desires to heal her too. He has no favorites.

I felt that nudge from the Holy Spirit saying, “Look at this. Recognize it?” For the first time in the 8-odd months since we moved in, it occurred to me that I should pray for this family and befriend them. I don’t even know their names, we have never spoken before. Even so, there is a woman literally screaming for help in there. She is trapped and bound. Why should the Lord bless me with such peace only to sit here and do nothing? I need a pretense. My eyes wander over to my garden.

Squash! My summer squash won’t stop growing. We can’t get rid of them fast enough. We have eaten so much squash this summer that I almost regret planting them. But there are 3 new (huge) squashes ready to be picked. They must be almost 8 inches and a few pounds each. Who doesn’t like free food?

So I made the plan to go over there and bring a peace offering. But first, I need to get dressed – Helmet of salvation. Shield of faith. Sword of truth. Sandals of peace. Not so that I can ransack and destroy them; they are beloved of God however broken. I don the armor of God to be prepared to meet the enemy in his place of work. The home and family which he and his minions have ransacked and ravaged. I must be prepared because the enemy will put up a fight. Fortunately for me, we both know who wins this one.

Let us always remember and never forget that we are blessed to be blessings for others. Let us be alert and of sober mind – always watching, always waiting for that opportunity to inject the love of Jesus. Every day, I find another puzzle piece of my purpose in This Story.

Seeking God: The Bread

Reading: Psalm 143:1:12, John 6:35-37

Christ: You know when life gets too overwhelming and things start to fall apart? Maybe you don’t realize how you naturally react, but I can see you starting to reach out for comfort from the closest thing. That’s when I have to step in and remind you of who I Am. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” 

never be hungry again.jpg

Think: What does it mean for be to be hungry today in 2016? I know that I am constantly craving something. Media, feed me entertainment. Credit card, feed me happiness. Food, literally feed me way too much. Technology, feed me social status (and virtual status!) As David is literally hungering for the Lord in this passage, can we also recognize the various hungers that we live with? Take a moment and think about what your “hunger” is right this moment. Maybe it’s hunger of healing, perhaps belonging, perhaps an impossible dream. Whatever it is, Only Jesus can satisfy that hunger beyond what you ever thought possible.

Pray: Dear Lord, Let us rise up and recognize Whose we are. You know our hearts and what it is that we are craving individually. Thank you for  already meeting our needs. Thanks to You, we can live without fear that we might not get our next meal. We no longer crave the things of this world, but the things of Heaven. Amen.

Seeking God: My full attention

Reading: Psalm 33:1-12

Christ: Spend some time with me today. Just for a moment put all your worries and cares in a jar on the shelf and focus on Me. I merely spoke and the heavens were created. I breathed and the stars were born. Do you realize then, that if I can do these things, I could surely love you better thank your tiny mind can imagine? Be still with me today and get to know me. For time is what all relationships need.

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.5 The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love..jpg

Think: What kind of time do I spend with Jesus? Distracted time, worried time, clock-watching time. How can I make the most of the small quiet time I have cut out for myself, instead of whiling it away by distractions of daily life? Perhaps this is a warning that I’m trusting in the busyness of life to make me feel accomplished. But my busyness doesn’t save me, Jesus does.

Pray: Dear Jesus, Thank you for loving to spend time with us. Thank you for your tender care for all our daily hurdles. Sometimes I put more trust in the things that I do for you, than in you yourself. Help me to recognize this as it’s happening and give me the strength and reserve to flip that trust over to you. Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I rest in you. Let me sing a new song to you with my life today and seek to find your unfailing love. Amen.

Seeking God: Running the race

Read: Psalm 18:1-19, Hebrews 12:1-2

Christ: Please never doubt that I hear your prayers. Every time you incline your heart to Me in prayer and praise, do it with a sure belief that I will answer you. Do not be discouraged by my timing. Recall how limited your reach of mind is, and how unlimited is Mine. Do not fear or be downhearted when something appears to go downhill, for I have already won.

he heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.jpg

Think: God does not leave us alone with our faith. It is like an engine which is only powered by His grace and He never stops filling it up for us. Not only that, we are not alone to run the road of endurance all by ourselves; by fixing our eyes on Jesus, we ever strive as a family together toward His will. Who are the people that run alongside me in our journeys of faith? How can I cheer them on today?

Pray: Jesus, thank you for hearing us and being so intimately connected with our struggles at every moment. We want to strip off every unnecessary burden and turn away from every sin in order to follow along the road you have set out for us. For you are my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Amen.


 

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave a comment below or send us feedback at purediscipleblog [at] gmail.com. We love to hear from you!

~The PD Team

Seeking God: The forgotten people

Read: Psalm 10:12-17, Luke 5:31-32

Christ: God will not fail to call everyone to account. This is why I came, to help you who are lost in the tangled web of your own sins. I offer the free gift of exoneration to the wicked as well as the helpless, and it is my dearest wish that ALL would choose to come to me. However, there are some who will exercise their free right to reject my love. For those people, I’m telling you that it may seem like they are getting away easy now, but they will not escape justice.

I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

Think: If Jesus does not choose who comes to him, neither should I.   A stranger at the checkout counter is just as deserving of my love as are my best friends. How can I reach out in love to someone new today? Who in my life is being forgotten by me?

Pray: Dear Lord, Let me go about my day today, looking for the people around me whom I would ordinarily ignore and forget. There are more of these than I care to acknowledge, but I desire to model Jesus. Help me to keep my heart open to ALL the souls you have put in my path. Amen.


Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave a comment below or send us feedback at purediscipleblog [at] gmail.com. We love to hear from you!

~The PD Team

Miracle surgery restores sight to children: Why drag God into it?

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

John 9:1-3

I  love the videos of people seeing or hearing for the first time. I saw this one on my Facebook feed today and of course, had to watch it.

Two blind sisters see for the first time

20/20/20 is a foundation that pays for children to have these surgeries done, who could otherwise never afford them. Without them, the children would be needlessly blind. The surgery given to them is called a “miracle”, and indeed it is. So many happy tears, faith and hope in humanity: restored.

Then I saw the comments on the Facebook post. Do we see joy for these girls? Encouragement to the good people who have made this happen? Do we see praise for the existence of mercy in this dark world?

Nope. Just a bunch of people turning on each other, scoffing and spitting on those who chose to praise God for His work. Just like in real life. I stand back from my immediate reaction and think: The Internet is only an extension of the actual broken world full of actual broken people (myself included). Why wouldn’t it be like this?

Capture

Why drag God into it? I used to think like that too. One spring break I went on a trip to Mexico to build houses with my youth group. The first night we were there,we huddled in a group and took turns praying. One person prayed: “Thank you Jesus, for all the work you did today.” I’ll never forget the ignorant yet innocent question I blurted out within that circle of believing Christians: “What did he do?”

It was an honest question. I didn’t mean it rudely, but it didn’t make sense to me. Wasn’t that me out there, carrying sheets of dry wall all day in the blistering sun? Wasn’t that us, nailing planks together, and toiling our arms off painting the wall? What work did Jesus do today? How does he get credit for work that I did physically? I don’t understand.

I’ll also never forget the looks of disgust I received. I often wonder about that moment in time. Why did no one ever take me aside? No one ever approached me regarding my little outbust. Especially those leaders. Wouldn’t that have been the perfect opportunity to teach a seeking 14 year old something amazing about the Gospel?

And these commenters, the people all around you as you go through your day who ask, “What did he do?” What do you tell them?

Do you recoil in disgust that someone has the audacity to either know or refuse to know God? Or do you take them aside lovingly and explain to them the hope that you have in Him?

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

And if you cannot talk to them, can we not pray for them? That one day, when God sees it fit, they will also know the joy of faith and hope and belief.

It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'”

Romans 14:11