How to Worship in the Waiting

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I remember going on trips with my family as a little girl. I was always in the middle seat in the back, with one brother asleep on my lap and one on my shoulder. Even today, it’s hard for me to fall asleep when someone else is driving, in case my lack of vigilance is the cause of our plunging down a ravine. (Or maybe I’m just a control freak?)

Anyway, when you can’t sleep and have two people lying on you, all there is to do, besides play the alphabet billboard game with yourself, is wonder that quintessential childhood question: “Are we there yet?” Such a question drives every parent to drink (sweet tea) as the answer is clearly that if we were there, we would have already stopped. Obvious enough?

Not to a child, apparently.

Not to us adults either. God makes us so many promises, and He is always so faithful, but all we seem to want is the fulfillment of the next promise — and now. We ask our Heavenly Father the same question I used to ask my earthly one so many times: “Are we there yet?” And with that question, we show that doubt has taken root in our hearts.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on our finances. Our bills are paid, but that beautiful budget that my husband and I never seem to actually implement stares us in the face.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on this fix-Suzy’s-personality-thing. I remind Him that I called a whole blog “The Beam in My Eye” and have drawn attention to every flaw I can think of about myself, but yet, my issues are still there.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on Dusty’s and my future. Kids or no kids? Leadership or no leadership? World change or television-channel-change? Is this it for us?

In all of my searching and asking and nagging and are-we-there-yetting, I forget that God is the King of all this “stuff,” and He wants my worship even if my proverbial car in the game of life stops right where it is and I never get the answer to anything I’ve asked.

Because I don’t deserve these answers. What I deserved, Jesus took on the cross, and thank God for that. However, I know that because God is gracious, all the important wonders of my life are going to be resolved by a loving Father. I just have to embrace His time and remember to worship in the waiting.

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I feel like God has made some huge promises to me in my lifetime, and He will fulfill everything He’s said. However, in the day-to-day, I often struggle to actively believe the promises, thinking instead that maybe I conjured them up or misunderstood God. Even so, I am comforted that I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way. Two Bible men, David and Elijah, had incredible lives and ministries; however, they both also went so far as to shrink from God’s promises by hiding in caves.

In 1 Samuel 22, David has already been anointed king, as I shared in another post on this blog. However, he finds himself in the Cave of Adullum, a fortified cavern usually populated by a different clientele — criminals. God proved His love to David when He allowed the young shepherd boy to kill a lion, a bear, and an inhuman giant. He proved it again when He had Samuel choose David from out of a stock of what the world would consider superior brothers.

Most recently, he had proven it when he allowed David to form a covenant with his enemy king’s son. Didn’t David believe that God would provide victory for him over that same king, Saul, whom God had rejected? Why, then, was he hiding in a cave? Because he found that to trust while he waited on a promise he considered unlikely just was too risky. David was so very human that he doubted the fulfillment of God’s promise.

And what of Elijah’s doubt in the downtime? He is truly one of the biblical greats, a prophet whose amazing life is recorded in 2 Kings. A man who would later perform more than double Elijah’s miracles, young Elisha thought so much of his hero that he followed him around even to his catching away by the Lord in a chariot of fire.

Elijah was known for stopping the rain, raising the dead, multiplying food in a famine, and even calling fire from Heaven, just to name a few. Did you catch those? Despite all these displays of God’s power, though, Elijah succumbed to depression and found his own cave. Wanting to rest from his seemingly solo task of taking on evil personified in King Ahab, Elijah came to a point where he was ready to give up and even die.

But God appeared to Elijah in that cave in 1 Kings 19:12: “And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (KJV).

At that moment, He showed up to prove a point to Elijah that He also proves to us today. God is very faithful and very present. He has not said one thing He will not do. When He said David would be king, king he was, and no Saul could stop him. No adultery could stop him. Not even the death and rebellion of his children could deter him.

Psalm 119:89 assures us that God’s word, whatever it is, is “forever … settled in heaven” (KJV). Doubting God’s promises may not falsify them, but doubting will certainly delay the sure word’s fulfillment and discourage us too. Had King David known what an example he would be of knowing the Father’s heart to us living in the new covenant, he would have come out of the cave of hiding to wait confidently on the Lord’s provision for his kingdom.

And had Elijah only realized that God’s promise for him was more than death by the way of other prophets, maybe he could have seen that chariot of fire in his mind before it came in reality to translate him straight from this world to the next.

I have many unfulfilled promises in my life, but I don’t want to just hide in a cave and wait for them to come to pass. I want to believe God in the waiting stage. I want those who see the fulfillment of the promises to know that they were birthed out of seasons of trust and hope from a woman of faith who chose to embrace God in her weakness and seek Him until her strength came.

And as I ask God many more times in my life, “Are we there yet?” I want to trust that for each and every promise, we will reach there just in time.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Why Ignoring God’s Word Is Not Smart

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What comes to mind when you hear the word “summer”? Do words like “sun” and “sand” and “water” pop into your head? Do you envision lazy days spent outside eating ice cream after grilling lunch or dinner on the back porch? Perhaps you think more broadly and the ideas of family and fun spring to mind?

Well, please allow me to briefly share what comes to mind when I think of summer. (Disclaimer: I’m a high school English teacher.)

The word “time” springs to mind when summer is mentioned. Time to finally do all those things I’ve been pushing aside during the busy school year. Time to clean and organize my house. Time to help my children sharpen their reading and writing skills. Time for doctors’ appointments, and time for the car’s oil change and finishing that Christmas project I started back in December.

Time to put my life back in order before the next school year begins.

And that is what I have focused on since summer began. That to-do list.

All that being said, I have also managed to carve out time for VBS and a trip to see my family, along with squeezing in a couple visits to the pool with the kids. Really, when all is said and done, I’ve been mighty productive. So why do I feel so unaccomplished? So unfinished and incomplete?

Recently, I asked my Jesus those questions, and I instantly received the answer.

I am feeling so broken lately because I have been making time for every other priority in my life EXCEPT for God’s Word.

The moment the Holy Spirit showed me my error, the words of Psalm 51 sprang into my heart: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Those words were written by King David after the prophet Nathan confronted the king about his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. David was instantly repentant after hearing Nathan’s condemnation in 2 Samuel 12:9: “Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.”

David had ignored God’s Word when he took Bathsheba (you shall not commit adultery, the seventh commandment) and killed her husband, Uriah (you shall not murder, the sixth commandment). I imagine David, like me, had not been spending time in God’s Word to have made such grievous errors in judgment.

Ignoring God’s Word can have severe consequences.

We see this truth when the Lord says this to David through Nathan the prophet in 2 Samuel 12:10: “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”

When we don’t make spending time in God’s Word a priority, disaster can and will, eventually, strike. A child of God found not spending time in His Word can be likened to a person driving a car in the pouring rain without the windshield wipers on. If you keep driving like that, you will crash! And David crashed hard.

As for me, I, too, have been ignoring God’s word. Like King David, this summer I have been living life according to my own whims and desires without taking any time to consult God’s Word — to consult God. By ignoring His Word, I have been leaving out a primary way God can speak to me and teach me.

Additionally, not spending time in His Word can lead to spiritual malnourishment. And that’s how I’ve been feeling this summer — starved. The reason I am feeling so fragmented lately is because I have deliberately cut off my spiritual sustenance and have been starving myself. No wonder I have grown weary and feel faint of heart.

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Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

How could I make all this time for temporal things and totally ignore what is lasting and true?

Am I alone in this? Do you also need to make time for the One who created time? Let’s make some mid-year resolutions and resolve to ignore God’s Word no longer.

Here are two things we can do to foster a growing relationship with the Lord:

1. Start your day in His Word. Even if you only have five minutes to spare, stop and acknowledge the Lord by reading His Word. The world in which we live is dark and scary. It’s a battlefield for the child of God! Philippians 4:7 admonishes us to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and it just makes sense that it is best to do this BEFORE the day begins and not after the battle has already begun.

2. Study His Word. It is also important to become intimately acquainted with God’s Word. 2 Timothy 2:15 explains that you should “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” We need to make time to really study His truth. Happily, one of the results of having a time like this is establishing a deeper relationship with the giver of life Himself.

Making these resolutions is simple, but putting them into practice can be daunting. I get it! If you are a busy working mom like myself, making the above two suggestions top priority in your life is a huge undertaking. But we must try!

The consequences of failure in this area of our walk with God could create irreversible damage. Just recall the loss of David’s first infant son with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12) and the adversity he faced in the later years of his life with his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15).

So, if you are feeling as if something is amiss in your life, perhaps you are missing out on time in God’s Word. Resolve with me to ignore it no longer. I plan on ending my summer and starting the new school year moving in the right direction — closer to God’s Word and thus closer to God.

Just a closer walk with Thee; Grant it, Jesus, is my plea; Daily walking close to Thee; Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Will you resolve with me to spend more time in God’s Word? Post a comment about your plans, and let’s create a dialogue and solidify our intentions before the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

Jamie Wills

Jamie Wills

Jamie is a high school English teacher, wife and mom. She is a marathon runner and writes regularly in her spare time on miscarriage, running, spirituality and everyday life on her blog -- posting things that God shows her that she doesn't want to forget, or "forget-me-nots." Jamie holds a master's degree in education and sponsors speech and debate at the high school level. Jamie is the mother of three children -- two beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah; as well as Angel, a baby she lost in August of 2010. She currently resides in Georgia with her family.

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What Does God Expect of Me?

What Does God Expect of Me

Earlier this week, a big Amazon package was sitting on my kitchen table when I got home. I knew exactly what it was. It was a brand new food processor I had just ordered a few days before. My plan was to start making all my own baby food, since my son was almost eight months old, and I was behind in giving him “other foods” (aka anything other than formula).

I decided that making homemade baby food would be a good idea in order to save money, and that I would be an accomplished, above-average mom. As I went to a kitchen drawer for scissors to open the package, I felt like I was supposed to be excited about it, but I wasn’t. I knew I wouldn’t be able to successfully do this. I knew I didn’t have all the time, energy, and drive in me in order to make this homemade baby food thing happen. I was defeated before I had even begun. I felt like a failure.

As I sat down for my quiet time this morning, my heart was heavy. My many perceived failures were piling up on me. I had a picture in my mind of the kind of woman, wife, and mom I was supposed to be.

I was supposed to have a perfectly clean house, a schedule of all of our meals for the next month, and all of our doctors’ appointments lined up for the year. I was supposed to be teacher-of-the-year at my school, go to the gym three times a week, and be up-to-date on all the latest fashions. I was supposed to volunteer in the community, serve in many facets at my church, and even be a leader of a handful of ministries. I was supposed to be an incredibly responsible, respectable, and put-together adult. I was supposed to have an organized purse and be able to create made-from-scratch baby foods.

The list was long and my strength was weak. Why couldn’t I be and do all of those things? Why didn’t God put the ability to accomplish these tasks more readily inside of me? I mean, a woman able to do it all is what would please Him and mean success, right?

With all of my weaknesses glaring, I cried out to God and realized something. I have been pressuring myself to be someone that I may NEVER be. And that is OK. Even better than that, it’s very possible that I have been wasting time and energy trying to be someone that I was NEVER SUPPOSED to be.

You see, as I got caught up in such a long list of to do’s, it was almost as if I was focused on being more like Martha instead of more like Mary. Let’s take a look at the passage to remind ourselves of these two sisters.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’ ” (Luke 10:38-42 –ESV)

Martha was focused on many things. She was distracted by them and trying to do, do, do for Jesus. Maybe, in a way, she was trying to be good enough for him. This is the trap that I have found myself in. I long to be a daughter that God is pleased with, and while that is a great thing, I had created all these things in my mind that He must expect from me. Things I thought I must do in order to be worthy of his presence. Like Martha, I was focusing on my to-do list rather than simply enjoying the company of the One in my heart.

Like Martha

There are a couple problems with this works-based mentality. The first is that my works will never make me good enough for him. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

The second problem with me trying to do more for Jesus is that it takes me away from the real truth and beauty of Christianity — to be in a close and personal relationship with God because of what Christ did for me, not what I do for Him. To simply be in awe of who He is and to rest in and enjoy His presence, hear His teaching, and get to know Him more. And the funny thing is, time spent with Him is where I get the strength to do the things that He has called me to.

The world teaches us to accomplish as much as we possibly can and to earn our worth and acceptance. To be more like Martha. To work hard, and then we might be “good enough.” But that’s not what Jesus tells us to do. Jesus says for us to pause from our busyness and learn from Him. To believe that “in repentance and rest is our salvation” (Isaiah 30:15).

Yes, God has planned things for me to do, and I certainly want to do them. I want to glorify Him with my life, and I don’t want to miss what He has for me. But my hope is that I don’t get caught up in works. That I would not “be anxious and troubled about many things.” That I would be more like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus.

Because resting in His presence will then allow me to clearly see the difference between the works He has called me to and the ones He hasn’t.

What about you? Have you become so caught up in trying to please others or meet your own impossible expectations that you haven’t been able to listen to Jesus lately? What is one way you can make time for Him today?

Rachel Howard

Rachel Howard

With a degree in music education, Rachel Howard is a middle grades chorus instructor who has a passion for teaching students about her love for music. In addition to inspiring adolescents in the public school system, Rachel is currently taking piano lessons and also enjoys photography, scrapbooking and Francine Rivers novels. A small-group leader at her church, Rachel also leads worship on occasion. In addition to these roles, Rachel is a wife and mom to two kids, Isaac and Evelyn. Rachel currently resides in Georgia with her husband and kids.

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How Forward Motion Faith Overcomes Obstacles

forward-motion-faith
Have you ever felt that there was a wall blocking your progress?

Yep. I have felt the same way many times the last few years as I have felt walls of every kind impeding my path.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I left my job four years ago. I exited the education field because I felt God wanted me to go a new direction into ministry; however, rather than find open doors, I’ve experienced nothing but closed doors. I have felt many times that maybe I didn’t hear God right — that I’ve been on a wild good chase with no end in sight. I’ve had successes here and there, but overall, I have doubted many times that I even heard God tell me I was going to be used in music and women’s ministry.

I’ve felt like the Israelites in the story of Exodus when they leave Egypt, but Pharoah, changing his mind on letting them go, comes chasing after them. The Israelites find themselves in a really tight spot — the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them.

Although my obstacles haven’t been Egyptian soldiers wielding weapons and an actual expanse of water in front of me, my obstacles have been the scorn of others who don’t believe me or accept my journey, the doubt of family members who have actively pulled down my dream of singing, and my own unbelief as I have struggled not to allow my own doubt to completely suffocate the small flicker of a dream I have struggled to keep alive. I’ve had doors open in women’s ministry and music — the two areas I have felt called to serve in, but God has told me distinctly not to walk through those doors.

The things I have felt Him tell me to do instead have not yielded (in my estimation) any results, and I have been confused. Just like the Israelites, when I have traveled in the way I believe God has directed me, I have felt surprised to find what has looked like a dead end.

Recently I stumbled into church feeling weighed down by my circumstances, discouraged. Our senior pastor was the speaker that Sunday, and I guessed there was a change of plans in the service when I saw him motion to the campus pastor, whisper in his ear, and then scrawl some notes on a piece of paper in his Bible.

Getting up, he announced that the Holy Spirit had directed him to go a different direction with the service. He instructed the church to open to a passage in Exodus, and, you guessed it — he began to talk about when the Israelites were facing the Red Sea. He then turned to the congregation and said, “God is going to deliver some of you out of the hands of your enemies.”

Of course, after that sermon, I was actively looking for a deliverance of some kind. My next step in my journey. I did get an answer, but it was not in a way that I was expecting.

The Holy Spirit Quickened Me to Act

Some time ago, I started a project to contact many of my former high school classes. After I left teaching and began the path into ministry, I felt God prick my conscience concerning ways I had acted while teaching that weren’t the best. I felt He wanted me to go back to students in my teaching community and tell them the changes He was doing in me. Did I want to do this? Was this a project that made me comfortable? Heck, no! But I felt very strongly that He was leading me in this direction, so I took steps to do this.

I worked on contacting classes on and off for a whole year; except recently, I had been praying God would help me to finish the project or tell me if He wanted me to stop. I didn’t know if I was to continue on with all of my classes (a logistical nightmare) or cease from my efforts at the point I was at.

That was the question I was pondering when I walked into the church service that day and my senior pastor said he felt that some people were at Red Sea points in their lives. I didn’t know why God would lead me into a strait by telling me to refuse promising opportunities without opening up new ones and allow me to be so misunderstood by those around me. I still don’t. But I did know that there was only one who could deliver me from my circumstances. If He brought me in, He could bring me out.

During the course of the particular service I mentioned, I felt that I was to email a former administrator and tell him about the project and ask for help in contacting the rest of my classes. Because I wasn’t entirely sure whether or not this was the right step for me, I prayed and asked God very specifically, “God, do you really want me to contact him?”

That same day, I was driving to a lacrosse game and heard a woman’s story concerning faith on the local radio station. The woman asked these words: Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?

And I knew God was telling me to send the email. So, I went home and stayed up typing the letter and sent it off.

Obedient Action Unlocks Blessing

Not too long after my desperate day at church and the contact with my former school, my husband texted me with some startling news — he had received a job offer from a school in a neighboring county. He had interviewed for the job, but when the position went to different candidate, we figured that God had sealed off the opportunity. However, not long after that, he received a different offer for another position at the same school. A position he had not applied for.

For whatever reason, something quickened in my spirit when he told me about the opportunity. We discussed the possibility all weekend. We even went down for prayer to make sure it was what God wanted for us — and we both left the altar with the distinct impression that God told him to take the job even though it would mean we would have to move.

However, I have to be honest with you. Just like the answer I felt I got from God in needing to contact my former school, the answer in my husband’s job change wasn’t what I wanted or even what I was looking for. These answers had nothing to do with music or my ministry. I wanted something to happen right where I was, but God seemed to have a different plan.

Though I don’t know for sure if my email and my husband’s job opening were somehow connected, one precipitated the other, I can’t help but think that the urgency I felt to write that email, to get moving on an assignment I would have liked to have put off for another day helped to usher in the start of the parting of the waters for me. What I do know is that obedience brings blessing.

I read once in an excerpt in Streams in the Desert about how our forward motion unlocks the “gates” we are to enter. The writer of the passage, Henry Clay Trumbull, used an example of country gates to illustrate this idea, saying:

Years ago automatic gates were sometimes used on country roads. They would securely block the road as a vehicle approached, and if the traveler stopped before coming to the gate, it would not open. But if the traveler drove straight toward it, the weight of the vehicle would compress the springs below the roadway, and the gate would swing back to let him pass. The vehicle had to keep moving forward, or the gate would remain closed. This illustrates the way to pass through every barrier that blocks the road of service for God. Whether the barrier is a river, a mountain, or a gate, all a child of Jesus must do is head directly toward it.

The Importance of Forward Motion

When you are up against a Red Sea in your life and you can’t figure out why God has brought you to that place, your forward motion may begin to move God’s hand to stir up the waves. However, the motion must be God-instructed motion for it to be forward motion. When the Israelites are up against the Red Sea and have nowhere to go, they are still and wait on God at Moses’ command. They don’t rush off and try to make up a plan that isn’t God’s. They quiet themselves to hear God’s instruction. And it comes when God says to Moses, “ ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground’ ”(Exodus 14:15,16).

God’s words signal them to go. Their signal that God — not Moses, although he was the one who raised His staff — has made a way for them. God sends winds to part the waves when Moses lifts his staff up. Commentator David Guzik observes about this passage:

These were simple instructions connected to a mighty miracle. In the same manner, the greatest miracle of salvation happens with simple actions on our part. As the rod of Moses did not actually perform the miracle, so we do not save ourselves with what we do, but we connect with God’s saving miracle.

Your obedience is all God asks for — it is He who will ultimately move the waters. But your obedience plays a part. Like the country gates that only spring open when triggered by a moving vehicle, our acts of faith move God to act. Notice, Moses is instructed to raise his staff, and God does the rest. Moses doesn’t have to worry about fighting off the whole army or making a bridge to span the waterway — God fights his enemies and takes care of all the hard stuff after Moses obeys.

obedience-brings-blessing

I still don’t know how my story in ministry turns out. At this point, unless God inspires me to do more with my school project, I feel God has answered the question I had of Him some time ago about whether or not He wanted me to continue with it. My former administration was not willing to help me in finishing my task of contacting my former classes, but I felt before I sent the email that God told me I was to do it so that I could be finished. I went to the lengths I could to complete what I could.

We are working on fixing up our house to put on the market and move out where my husband Keith’s new job is. Our move is another step in the direction of fulfilling the destiny God has promised me.

In response to these small acts of faith, I feel that God is pushing back the waters on my behalf and making a path where none existed before.

What about you? Are you up against a Red Sea in your life? Ask God if there is a step of faith you can take to move forward through your circumstance. Leave a comment here. I would love to pray for you!

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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My Biggest Assignment in Christian Ministry

assignment When I launched my blog a few months ago, I received positive response from a series of articles. Excited about the feedback, I voiced these words to a circle friends, “It is totally worth it to me if I helped someone.”

A wise friend stopped me after the conversation and pulled me aside to tell me that she writes for God’s pleasure and no one else’s. I thought about that for a moment and had to agree with her. Before her comment, I had started thinking of posts that would draw more favorable reaction, topics I could talk about that would appeal to readers. But I had to stop myself.

It is totally worth it to me if I please God. Even though I very much want to help others with the content of my blog, I write the posts that God gives me and directs me to write. I know they will help people, but I must do it not for my readers but for my audience of one: Him.

I can’t let my desire to attract readers and grow a ministry distract or divert me from what God tells me to do. An important observation that Oswald Chambers makes about Christian service is this:

The great dominant note is not the needs of men, but the command of Jesus.

My motivation for what I’m doing is because He told me to and no other reason. If I orient myself instead solely around the needs of others, I’m bound to get burned out, frustrated and irritated. I’m also bound to get caught up in self-worship and set myself up as the object of others’ worship rather than just the conduit God uses to channel their worship to Him.

Paul was very careful to always point his ministry back to Jesus. When a crowd started to worship him and Barnabas for healing, he “tore his clothes” and declared, “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you” (Acts 14:15).

My tendency is to want the praise and want the spotlight. But God wants me to worry about pleasing Him alone. I need only look at the ministry of Jesus to discover what boundaries I need to set up in my relationship and ministry endeavors to ensure that I do just that.

Jesus Practiced Self-Care

Although it may appear like an illogical place to start, one of the best ways I can serve others best in ministry is by first taking care of myself. A guest blogger I had post several months ago wisely noted that we need to apply the oxygen mask to our face first before we can assist others with theirs. She was speaking in the context of motherhood, but the same can be true in a ministry sense as well.

The oxygen mask I need in ministry is time spent alone with God.

Serving on a worship team a few years back, I was totally unprepared for the spiritual attack that came against me on the weeks I would sing. I assumed that since I was ministering to the body of Christ that I would have some sort of special grace and protection — and God does protect those who serve Him. However, I had more than a normal amount of appliances break down within a few month span; instances where my children contracted strange illnesses; foreboding thoughts and moments waking up afraid at night; and situations where conflict would break out despite my best attempts to be peaceable with others.

I collapsed under the weight of the spiritual hurricane like a cheap tent. I was a complete wreck. I didn’t realize I had to prepare for spiritual battle by immersing myself daily in the Word and communion with Him.

The same has been true of my blog writing. The attack has come in the form of fear and doubt every time I write a post. Ugly thoughts invade my mind: No one is going to read this. You’re not a good writer. Why can’t you sound like this other writer? You probably didn’t hear God right. Are you sure you understood that verse?

The onslaughts are real and exhausting and make me want to close down my site and hide from the internet. They make me cry out to God, “Where are you, Lord? Why is this happening to me? This isn’t normal!” And I think that serving God can’t or shouldn’t possibly be this hard. But it is. I wish my Christian walk only consisted of those graceful moments sitting in my Grandma’s church watching sunlight beam through stain glassed windows casting patterns of bright color on the floor, the choir singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” — Luke 5:16

Jesus modeled how to combat the pressure and conflict He experienced as a public figure in ministry by going into the wilderness alone to pray. Jesus made Himself available to the masses, but He also was intentional about the time He spent in solitude.

He knew the importance of drawing boundaries around Himself. He didn’t apologize or make excuses for the times He slipped away from the crowds. He knew that He had to spend time with God to carry out God’s will — to know the words to say and have the energy to meet the demands of those who continually pressed in on Him. As commentator Adam Clarke observes:

A man can give nothing unless he receive it; and no man can be successful in the ministry who does not constantly depend upon God, for the excellence of the power is all from him.

Others’ Expectations Can’t Trump God’s

Not only do I need to make time for solitude; I need to set clear boundaries so the needs of others don’t distract me from what God has asked me to do. For a long time, I thought that being a Christian meant being nice to everyone, and I mistakenly equated nice with doing what other people wanted me to do even if it meant that I had to suppress how I really felt about a situation inside.

However, Jesus never put others’ wants above His Father’s commands. Note what He says when He is teaching a crowd and someone informs him that his mother and brothers are waiting outside to speak with him:

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? (Matthew 12:48)

Ouch! Jesus is painfully forthright here. Jesus clearly wants everyone to know that there is “no tie of relationship more sacred than spiritual relationship” (John Calvin commentary). Although we are not told why His mother needed Him, she clearly felt that the matter was urgent enough to interrupt His teaching to get to Him. He, however, lets the informant know that His Father’s work cannot be interrupted, and He gives His reply in the hearing of all listening to make a lesson out of the incident.

Jesus’s answer demonstrates how I am to handle those persistent matters that press in on me each day as I decide what tasks to invest my time in. Jesus doesn’t intend for me to starve all of the relationships in my life and spend every waking hour working on ministry projects. However, serving God means putting Him above the other relationships or other obligations in my life. That means that I may have to disappoint other people at times or do things that aren’t always comfortable for me.

Several years ago, in a different season as a new, scared young mom, I held my daughter out of the nursery on Wednesday night services up until the time she was seven months old because I was afraid that she would get sick if I put her in with other babies, and I would have to call off work. I had watched other co-workers provoke irritated responses from superiors when they had to leave early or call in sick to tend to sick little ones.

Petrified of disappointing my administration at my job but very much wanting to get back into Wednesday night choir practice, I didn’t know what to do. As I was trying to come up with a solution while walking the hall of the church one night, I felt the Lord very clearly speak to me and say, “Carol, you are putting your daughter above me.”

Whoa! I felt for sure that God would admire me for being a protective mother, but I learned that God was asking me to obey Him and get back into singing in that season without letting the expectations of my work or my own self-generated expectations about being a good mom take precedence over what God was asking me to do. (Rest assured that there are certainly times God asks us to set aside time just to mother, but for that particular time He had called me to another role as well.)

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galations 1:10)

What my biggest assignment truly entails is being a daughter of the King and letting my service to others flow out of that secure place I find when I put my relationship with Him first. Although I have other important jobs that I am called to — mom, blogger, friend, wife, sister — when I keep my eyes fixed on Him, He helps me prioritize and balance the demands in my life so that I don’t end up sidetracked or overwhelmed.

Because when I fillet open my motives, lay them bare like a fish on a carving board, what lies underneath my desire to have glowing feedback to my writing and ministry is me. My desire to look good. And my job is actually to make Him look good. Yes, I am called to lay down my life for others, but I am called to lay down my life for Him first.

And His approval of me must be more important than the fleeting words of those around me.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Spiritual Rest: Letting Go of Trying so Hard in Our Work and Relationships

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She looked at me with a serious gaze and explained, “It’s not a matter of trying harder.”

Sitting in the doctor’s office after a surgery — a doctor in front of me with my charts mapping out my low iron levels — I knew what she said to be true. Plagued with a racing heartbeat, dizziness when I stood up, and fatigue when I walked the distance of a parking lot, my body was struggling to bounce back from a pregnancy loss.

I wasn’t functioning at my optimal level because my heart was having to work overtime to circulate oxygen through my body, and the doctor predicted that it would be several months before I regained my strength. Even if I wanted to will myself to get better, I could not get to the place I had been before surgery simply by “trying harder.”

Similar to the case of my post-surgery health crisis, I have found myself many times running on empty spiritually and not really understanding why I can’t get to an optimal efficiency level. Contrary to the messages of our culture, we were never designed to live in an achievement system where we go it alone in our own strength. We were designed to live in a place of dependence on God — created to live in a state of rest in our decision-making, interactions with others, and work endeavors.

Rest in God does not equate with lying around all the time — being at rest is a choice of believing that God is who He says He is and His precepts are true. Being at rest means taking purposeful steps in the direction we feel He has called us. We always have a choice, and if we choose not to walk in faith than we will not be at rest.

When we step out and allow Him to guide our steps, we have the blessing of peace in what we are doing. We have the confidence and assurance that we are doing the will of God and that He will protect us in the way we are going because we are relying on Him and not ourselves for guidance.

So many verses in the Bible emphasize this important point:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28)

Rest in Our Work

I first encountered the term “labor-rest” in a sermon by our senior pastor, Dr. Mark Walker. As he defined it, labor-rest is the idea that even in our work we are not frantic because we are not trusting in our own resources or decision-making abilities, but rather relying on God’s wisdom and resources, allowing Him to guide and help us in the important work we do.

An example of this rest principle was when I was working on the creation of this blog. I had received some advice from a friend and had managed to set up a blog on WordPress and buy a domain. However, when I attempted to change my layout and the format of my blog, I ran into some roadblocks. I couldn’t figure out how to make my pages show up under the appropriate menu tabs. I really was quite frustrated.

A few weeks into worrying about it, I prayed and immediately the name of a friend from my Break-time For Moms group popped into my head. I emailed her and set up a meeting, and she was able to quickly correct the errors in formatting and organize my pages under the appropriate tabs. If I had only prayed to begin with, I would have saved myself needless worry.

Getting to a place where we can rest takes a little effort because we have to let go. We have to trust that we are not the best ones to handle the situation. We may get by for a time on our own abilities and efforts, but we will not have the peace or the energy we will have if we decide initially to rely on the advice and wisdom of God.

On the flip side of labor-rest is achieving in our own power, and it creates damaging circumstances. As Steve McVey notes in Grace Walk: What You’ve Always Wanted in the Christian Walk, “Self-sufficiency always produces conflict … It is God’s purpose to bring us to the place where we rest totally in the sufficiency of Christ within us for every situation.” When we strive to produce in our own strength, we get burned out and may even compromise ourselves to get ahead. When we believe that we are the source for our income and well-being and leave God out of it, we may need to cut corners to maintain our status at work or get a promotion.

Suddenly, flirting with the married boss to get a raise, covering up a costly mistake we made in order to save face, or refusing to confront the wrong actions of a powerful co-worker begin to appeal to us because we are not trusting God for our sustenance but instead looking to ourselves, the people and systems around us as our supplier.

Rest in Our Relationships

Not only can we have rest in our work, God also wants us to have rest in our relationships. As Joyce Meyer argues in Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone:

We can even enter the rest of God concerning what people think of us and whether they approve of us. We can become so secure in Christ that as long as we know our heart is right, we know whatever people think of us is between them and God and not our concern.

The key to rest in relationships is resting our identity in God and not using other people to define us and help us feel good about ourselves. If we know that we are accepted and approved by God, we don’t have to find a relationship to make us feel filled and valuable. We don’t have to constantly worry that the other person may end the relationship or lose interest because our whole identity is not tied up in that person.

If the person chooses to move on — a friend stops calling, a spouse leaves, or a family member decides to not forgive after a conflict — it may hurt and we may miss them, but because our identity is resting in who God says we are and not on who those people say we are, we do not have to crumble and lose all sense of self when the other person is no longer a part of our lives.

A few years ago, I was devastated by the loss of a friendship with a very close friend. She was one of the first friends I made when I came to Georgia — our husbands got along, and we were at a similar age and life stage. However, I clung very tightly to that relationship because of my own insecurity. When she became close friends with another couple and flaked out on a few engagements, I got really angry.

In retrospect, I see that I was depending way too much on that relationship for fulfillment. I still see her from time to time, but we are not close like we once were. I am at a point where I have been able to let that relationship go because God has helped me to find healing in that area and not cling so tightly to that friendship.

A phrase Beth Moore uses to reassure herself when she begins to have fearful thoughts that her spouse will leave or a friend will desert her is simply “Then God.”  We can know that if times get really hard and we face a relationship fallout even when we’ve done everything we can to keep it together, “Then God.” We have the foundation of God to rely on to help us keep ourselves in tact through any relationship difficulty.

The reality is that even when we do all the right things at times, people will still betray us, abuse us, misunderstand us and forsake us. But we always have the comfort of knowing that God will never do these things to us.

Finding Rest in Our Identity in Christ

The interesting thing about finding rest in our work and relationships is that both involve being at rest with who we are in Christ. Once we have decided upon our identity and our ability to lean into His character and trust Him with all facets of our lives, our need to manipulate, control or act in ways that jeopardize our peace ends. As Meyer observes in Addiction to Approval:

Hebrews 4 teaches us that we can enter the rest of God through believing. It says we should be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter the rest of God. We should have knowledge of it and experience it for ourselves. Those who have entered the rest of God have ceased from the weariness and pain of human labors. They are not tied up in knots; they are relaxed, secure and free to be themselves.

I can honestly confess to you that I am not fully at that place yet of being “relaxed, secure and free” to be myself.  I am still working on letting go and allowing God to do what He wants with me. I do well depending on God for awhile and then find myself getting anxious about a project or a relationship, and I spend a lot of energy trying to figure things out. Many times the way He assigns doesn’t seem very logical to me.

Meyer is not advocating that we “strive diligently” by spinning our wheels futilely chasing and attempting to earn something from God. Just like the place I was in after getting out of the hospital a few months ago — “trying harder” doesn’t produce results. Rather, what Meyer is saying is that when we believe what God says and submit to His ways of doing things, there is an ease that we experience with which we can approach our work and our dealings with others. We find rest not only when we come and sit at Jesus’ feet (Matthew 11:28); we find rest when we take Jesus’ “yoke” upon us and “learn” from Him (Matthew 11:29).

Taking His “yoke” upon us means allowing ourselves to be led by Him and doing what He wants us to do. Although we are under his yoke, He encourages us and enables us with his Spirit to go down the path He has for us. There may be some difficult steps, but He walks them with us. He shows us how to do life better than we know how to do it on our own.

As Matthew Henry comments in response to this passage, taking Christ’s yoke upon ourselves makes it possible for our soul to “dwell at ease”; for as he notes, “The way of duty [spending time with Jesus and allowing His teaching to transform us] is the way of rest.”

Related Bible Verses:

Hebrews 4:1-3 (NLT): “God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news — that God has prepared this rest — has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Spread Thin

Suzy Lolley

I taught public school for eleven years. During that time, these were just some of the jobs I had:

Relay for Life Team Captain. Who knew that volunteering to help meant you were the leader? Not a second-year-teacher, apparently. Reading Department Chair. Beta Club Sponsor. Academic Bowl Coach. Cheerleading Coach. Don’t you have to be able to at least do a cartwheel for this? Hospital-Homebound Tutor. Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Coach.

I’ve been involved in the same small church for twenty years, and the story there is the same. Worship leader. When-there’s-a-choir director. Sunday school teacher. Missions advocate. Wedding and funeral singer. Camp and retreat director. There are a million more, but I’m getting tired even looking at my own list…

I can’t even count how many times people in my life have asked me, “Suzy, why don’t you slow down?” Ironically, they are the same ones who ask me to help and appreciate my volunteer spirit.

I’ve tried slowing down. It’s almost impossible for me. I told my brother that I must have four times the average number of thoughts in a single day. Even if I’m lying down, my mind is running a constant to-do list.

You can see it. They can see it. I can see it.

I’m spread thin.spread thin

No one could possibly do all the things I feel I must do and still do them well. As the old adage goes, I often find myself being “Jack of all trades but master of none.” There was a woman in the Bible who I’m sure could have related to me. Martha.

She always gets a bad rap from those who would say to be more like Mary.

I appreciate worship. I love it and have led it for years. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who has yelled at times, “Why am I the only one doing all the work?” Most times the rage has been pointed inward, but at other times, I’ve let it spill over onto those “Marys” sitting there hanging out while I cook or clean or break my back.

Maybe they’re worshipping or taking time for the important things, but all I see is one thing. Laziness. Was that too forward? No, hopefully you were hoping for some honesty and relatability in this post.

I’m not going to stop being Martha. My husband has earned the nickname “Crockpot” because it seems we can never leave the house for a function without my asking him to carry his namesake.

But if I am destined to be Martha, how can I use it to my good? What practical advice can I take away from the Martha vs. Mary saga? Let’s read their story first from Luke 10 (NKJV):

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’ “

Here are some practical takeaways I get from the story.

1. There are two distinct types of people in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I have very worshipful moments. My sister-in-law Rachel is a Mary, but she has some powerful serving moments. But we are not the same person. It doesn’t matter how I try to be a reflective, thoughtful, even-tempered Mary. I’m not one.

I’m a doer on most days. I just have to learn to do what adds to the kingdom, and over-extended busyness is not it. I can work and work, but I don’t want to get to the judgment seat one day and see that all of it amounted to no souls being saved.

2. It’s OK to be a Martha; you just have to temper your gifts. Martha is not a curse word. If Jesus hadn’t appreciated His friend’s cooking and serving, He wouldn’t have been in her house. But she was treating her Lord and Savior rudely. She wasn’t paying attention to Him at all, and she was asking Him to break up a fight of all things. And we are left with a Bible story that makes her look like a witch.

I wish I could say I didn’t relate to a lack of hospitality or putting my guests in the crossfire of my agitated mood. I wish that, but I can’t. Martha teaches me that I don’t want either of those traits to be my legacy.

3. The third takeaway is this. There are many good things, and then there is the best thing. Cooking is good. Cleaning is good. Planning and organizing and working are good. But worship is better. Not just better — best. When you and I lay down the tendency to be spread thin and instead embrace the arms that were spread out on the cross, all our work and all our plans will start to mean something.

I don’t want to be spread thin. I want to be a Martha Suzy with a purpose. As Psalm 127 says:

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Accept the gift of rest today, beloved. Let’s not do our work in vain.

Want more Suzy? Stop by and visit her brand new blog where she is taking a year to write about her journey from independence to Jesus-dependence.

 

 

 

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Self-Care: What to Do When You’re Stressed

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It’s been one of those weeks.

You know what I’m talking about. A week where seemingly everything goes wrong.

Your children are particularly whiny and disobedient. You don’t sleep well because your mind won’t rest. You run late to every engagement on your calendar. You’re the mom who forgets to bring the snack when it’s your turn.

And to top it all off, you have a headache you haven’t been able to shake for days.

You know. THAT week.

Well, that describes my past week. A week where I battled moments of depression and abused myself regularly with tirades of, “You suck!”

It’s at times like these when I most crave quiet and rest and time with my Savior.

However, how do you find the time for you when your days are dominated by investing in others from sunrise to sunset, leaving you physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted?!

This is my current struggle.

When do I find time for myself? Blogging and running are things I enjoy, but at the risk of sounding greedy, here’s my real problem: I want more! I need more!!

I want to start a personal journal — a space where I can clear my head of the mental vomit that has no business being published here.

I would like to train for another 10K — believe it or not.

I want more time to sleep. I want days where I can sleep in and wake up without the assistance of my alarm.

I want to run away to a cabin — alone — and enjoy nature and a good book!

Am I wrong for wanting these things? Am I wrong for trying to make plans to deliberately fit these things into my life?

Are moms not to have time for themselves?

I stumbled across a piece on Facebook where the author talks about how moms always put their needs second to the needs of their children. She states the idea that when it comes to moms’ needs, we will have a turn to focus on ourselves at a later time.

And while that is a noble way of looking at motherhood, I don’t think it’s a wise approach. Moms have needs too. Needs that can’t be put off indefinitely until “later.”

It’s like what the stewardess on a plane says before liftoff when giving instructions in case of an emergency: if you are traveling with small children, be sure to put on you air mask before attempting to secure your child’s mask. Now, consider why that advice is given: because you can better take care of your children’s needs if you have first met your own.

Jesus understood the need for personal time and space.

Luke 5:16: “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Matthew 14:23: “After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Later that night, He was there alone.”

Mark 7: 24: “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet, He could not keep His presence a secret.”

Jesus needed alone time. It’s something we all NEED. And it’s something I have to make a priority in my life right now.

How do you make time for you?

Today’s forget-me-not: Me.

View Jamie’s original November 7, 2014 post by clicking here.

Jamie Wills

Jamie Wills

Jamie is a high school English teacher, wife and mom. She is a marathon runner and writes regularly in her spare time on miscarriage, running, spirituality and everyday life on her blog -- posting things that God shows her that she doesn't want to forget, or "forget-me-nots." Jamie holds a master's degree in education and sponsors speech and debate at the high school level. Jamie is the mother of three children -- two beautiful daughters, Beth and Hannah; as well as Angel, a baby she lost in August of 2010. She currently resides in Georgia with her family.

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