Yesterday on the blog I laid out a simple, 15-minute challenge to sprout our spiritual growth: Read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb each day. The simple practice helps turn our hearts to God and keep Him at the forefront of our minds. The Psalms are filled with...
This is a difficult post to write.
It’s not easy to admit the temptation to estimate my own personal value.
I know the truth in my head: Our value stems from our position as children of the loving, almighty God—the Lord of the universe and Creator of all things. I know that.
Sadly, my heart doesn’t always feel it. Somewhere in my life, I learned to believe that my value is derived from things I produce, my grades, my success, my pay.
It’s a battle I’ve fought for ages. Sometimes I feel I make progress, then I experience recurring flare-ups, spurred on by things like:
- The schoolmate who stopped being friendly when I started covering my paper during a test
- Struggles with a college calculus class when I couldn’t earn an A
- Below-market pay for jobs where I give everything I have
- An awkwardly absent “thank you” at the completion of a big project
- A sense that some appreciate what I do more than who I am
- Blog posts that don’t seem to reach many people
Let’s be honest. These are petty, selfish examples that reveal the shallowness of my own heart. Which is why this is so difficult to share. But I can’t bury the truth under a bushel and I don’t believe I’m the only one who struggles with this stuff.
My most recent flare-up seems worse than normal. It feels much harder, lasting far longer than I think it should. For some reason, I can’t seem to grab hold of the truth long enough to walk in it. Just when I think I get a grip, it all slips through my fingers.
Continuing My Journey Toward Value in Christ
Last week I read in a devotional from our church small group:
“The damaged self still wants to gratify its desires, while the spirit wants to draw close to God.”
The sentence stopped me in my tracks and moved me to spontaneous prayer. I cried out to God asking, “Lord—show me where I’m damaged as it relates to my personal value. Why can’t I overcome?”
In prayer, the Holy Spirit reminded me of my long-ago past, which shined light upon the root of the issue. Names, faces, and circumstances flooded my mind along with deliberate declarations of forgiveness toward those involved. There’s no need for grudge holding, in fact, I’d just like to be free from the grip of this stronghold. The offenses seem minor, even silly, this many years later, but they’ve managed to generate a lasting impact.
By revealing the root problem, the Lord helped me understand more about the battle. Like finding a small pebble in my sock that made it uncomfortable to walk, identifying the source allows me to dispose of it properly. Those small pebbles can be hard to dig out, however, and I knew my work wasn’t finished.
Since my value comes from Christ, I asked Him two bold questions:
“Do you value me, Lord? Will you show me?”
“My child,” I felt the Spirit whisper. “I gave my life for you.”
How could I have overlooked such an obvious act of love? Was I in such a selfish mindset that I could disregard Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross? A sob escaped while my hands covered my face. “Please forgive me, Lord,” I murmured, heartbroken at my own insolence.
Washing by the Word
Instead of meeting me with condemnation, a delightful sense of God’s favor flowed through my heart. Through His Word, He proclaimed His love and defined the value that He holds for His children:
- We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27).
- It is He who made us. We are His. We are His people (Psalm 100:3).
- He knit us together in the womb and calls us “fearfully and wonderfully made.” His works are wonderful (Psalm 139:13-14).
- He has loved us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
- Even the hairs on our head are numbered (Matthew 10:30).
- God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16).
- We were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 7:23).
I felt my stony heart begin to melt as the truth resonated in my spirit. As the truth of God’s Word washed over me, I felt cleansed as if washed with water—just as Paul describes in Ephesians 5:26.
My damaged self (my flesh) desperately wants to find value through fleshly means. As the Word performed its cleansing work, I felt my spirit draw close to God and embrace His truth.
Yes. A breakthrough that feels amazing. Today I will walk in freedom and victory, realizing that the Lord and I may have to walk through a similar exercise again in the future. Our flesh is a tough monster to tame. Salvation happens in a moment but sanctification takes a lifetime. I’m grateful for the Lord’s patience and gentleness as He helps me again and again, as often as needed.
Be strengthened by His Word today!
When We Feel We Can’t Make Time
We’ve all experienced it. That sinking feeling that comes when we receive a prompting by the Holy Spirit to move into action, then immediately realize that we can’t make time to fulfill the call.
Maybe a new ministry was introduced at church on Sunday. For a split second, you imagined yourself fully engaged in its service, but reality struck and you knew you could never squeeze one more thing into your already packed days.
A co-worker has a sick family member and you daydream of helping with practical projects around her house . . .
Your best friend regularly volunteers at a local hospital and you wish you could join her . . .
There’s a group of ladies who meet to pray together and you’d love to take part . . .
A huger stirs your soul and you desire to learn more about God’s Word . . .
You want to serve the Lord, help others, get involved, and develop a deeper relationship with Jesus, but both your calendar and your mental capacities are full to the brim. Somehow, you know in advance this would be just one more thing that you start but don’t complete. And so, you avoid it like the plague because you can’t make time and don’t want to feel like a failure – again.
You feel God’s draw, His invitation to join Him where He is already at work. But you say no.
There’s just one thing holding you back from serving with all your heart: Time.
We Make Time for What’s Important
The harsh reality—the thing we are reluctant to admit—is that we make time for what is most important to us. (See the article I wrote about that here).
Since we can generally find a way to make time for critical interruptions, logic holds that, with a few careful adjustments to our calendars and our mindsets, we can make time for on-going life changes too.
A Bird’s Eye View of Time
I find it useful to take a bird’s eye view of my planner. Instead of focusing on minutes, task lists, and activities that bring a sense of overload, if I stand back and look at the big picture, I can identify themes and trends that I might not see from the “trenches” of life.
With a view from above (almost like a heavenly perspective), we often find encouragement that we can walk in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit – even when our days are already overflowing. There are several ways that we can make time for the purpose and calling God places in our life. From a perspective of 10,000 feet, we begin to see that there are activities and habits that we can eliminate in order to make the most of the time the Lord provides to us.
Making time requires a few things: a little discipline, a little prioritization, and a strong desire to walk in step with the leading of the Holy Spirit. Practically speaking, let’s look at
11 time-sucking habits that we can abolish immediately to make time for our priorities:
- Working without a plan. Interruptions can rule over us if we allow. Instead, make a plan and work your plan. Inside that plan, don’t schedule your time so tightly that interruptions throw you off course. Leave room for interruptions so they don’t de-rail your intentional efforts.
- Unrestrained Internet Surfing. I admit, I’m mildly addicted and love having a world of information at my fingertips. It feeds my craving for trivia and meaningless facts. But the Internet can be a graveyard to the precious resource of time. It’s more than social media. It’s shopping, learning, reading, laughing… you know it all as well as I. They’re not all bad activities, in fact, some can truly enrich our lives, but it’s too easy to get sucked into a time-wasting vortex. We must use the Internet responsibly.
- Television. My, how our entertainment has evolved. We no longer wait until Tuesday at 7 pm to watch our favorite show. It’s available on demand. And why stop at one episode when we can watch 20? All those hours in front of the screen are spent watching some celebrity fulfilling her dreams while we sit on the couch and neglect our own.
- Games. I love board games, card games, dice games, electronic games. When I’m face to face with friends or family playing a game across a table and engaging in laughter and light conversation, its time well invested. But when I sit behind a screen and engage with repetitive online challenges on my phone or tablet, it’s easy to lose track of time. I’m not pouring into relationships or adding any value to my day. Before I know it, an hour (or more) has flown by and I wonder how it could have ticked by so quickly.
- Answering the phone. I am not advocating rudeness or irresponsibility here. Many may deem it impolite to ignore a call, but phone interruptions can become mountainous. A friend who calls with a quick question can engage us in a conversation that lasts 20 minutes (or far longer) during a time that was planned for something productive. A more efficient practice might involve allowing voice mail to record the quick question. Then we can find the answer between focused activities (rather than in the middle of them) and reply to our friend when we can give her our full and undivided attention.
- Email and texting. They don’t require an immediate response. Try checking them once in the morning and once in the afternoon instead of keeping your inbox at perpetual zero. This will take some practice but I promise, no one will get hurt.
- Multi-Tasking. We’ve been taught to take pride in our ability to multi-task. It’s not efficient. Stop it. We’re far more productive when we do one thing at a time, do it well, and then move onto the next task. We free up time and mental energy when we avoid trying to focus on too much at once.
- Peak-time errands. Whenever possible, run errands outside of peak times such as weekends and between 5-7 pm. Instead, try to schedule errands and shopping during lunchtime, early morning, or late evening when possible.
- “Yes.” Some of us have the yes bug. There is much to admire about those who will do anything for anyone at any time. However, staying yes comes with a cost. Evaluate your yeses carefully. Are your motivations pure? Make sure you’re able to fulfill your commitments, and ensure you’re your spiritual, personal and family needs aren’t neglected as you help others.
- Perfection. We can’t achieve it, so let’s stop striving for it. Done well supersedes done to perfection.
- Neglecting rest. Our tendencies often involve giving up sleep or relaxation to accomplish more. But When we neglect rest, our brains feel cloudy. It’s harder to concentrate and nearly everything we do takes longer than it should. Rest is God’s idea. Don’t neglect it.
Time is Not A Reason for Neglect
If something is important to us, time should never be a reason to neglect it. We can learn to practice better intentionality and make the most of the time that the Lord provides to us. For His purpose, for His glory.
Imagine if you diligently told your time where to go instead of feeling enslaved to its restrictions. How would that feel? What would you achieve for God? For yourself? For your family and others? How would it affect your peace and joy?
Which time sucker do you feel it will be easiest to reduce or eliminate right away? Which will you have the most difficulty giving up? I’d love to hear how adopting a few minor adjustments changes the way you view your time.
24 hours a day. That’s all we have to reach true transformation.
You. Me. The guy next door. All of us.
Therefore, in the moments when I sigh in regret, wishing I had time to do some of the bigger, sillier, and more important things—I should reconsider. It’s not that I don’t have time, it’s that I’ve already committed my time to other things. The way I prioritize my 24 hours each day is the limiting factor as I chase my dreams, do things I enjoy, or pursue the calling God has placed on my life.
The Truth About Time
The truth is: We make time for what’s most important.
That realization shines new light on the choices I make. Most days, I don’t believe I spend my time wisely. If someone were to gauge my most important activities based on the seconds that tick by as I do them, I’m sure they’d get the wrong idea.
Because television certainly isn’t important. Nor are games on my phone. While I value relaxation and I believe that entertainment should have its place, perhaps I use it to excess. If I were to add every minute I spend binge-watching a favorite television series and compare it to every minute I spent in prayer, Bible study, meditation, worship, in quality conversations with my husband, or laughing with my kids… I know how it would look. Not pretty.
And I bet I’m not alone. Perhaps you feel the same.
When “Wanting To” Isn’t Enough
We might want to make better choices with our time. But when commitments fill nearly all of the available time slots, it’s not easy to change.
We need more than a desire for things to change. We need a spark that will ignite our want into flames of willpower. What we need is a driving force that compels us to stay on track when we’d rather sink back into our comfort zone and maintain the status quo.
The One Spark You Need to Make This Your Best Year Ever
There is great news – the spark we need is something we already have!
Inside each of us is a reason behind our desire.
It’s called our WHY.
When our why is strong enough, nothing can stop our progress.
Think of it this way: Maybe you are afraid of flying. Despite your fear, you board the airplane clinging to your why of enjoying rest, relaxation, and incredible beauty at your vacation destination. Or maybe your why is the anticipation of snuggling with your newborn grandchild, niece, or nephew when you land in a faraway city.
Those are examples of strong whys – strong enough to propel us to do things we normally wouldn’t so that we can enjoy what we normally couldn’t.
The idea of why is simple, its power is explosive, but discovering the strong why that we each possess, well, that can take a little work. It’s often a matter of reflecting on the past to consider and recognize what most strongly motivates us.
When we consider the most meaningful moments we spend, how we feel when certain projects are finished, and the people we helped along the way, we’ve moved closer to identifying our personal why.
Keep in mind that for each different hat that we wear, each symbolizing the different roles we fulfill, we might have a different why. For example, the why behind my role as a daughter of an aging parent may look significantly different from my why in my role as a wife. For each role, we may need to go through a separate process of transformation. Regardless, the steps to engage are similar and are easy to integrate immediately.
I invite you to consider adopting this process:
5 Simple Steps to Tap into Your Why and See True Transformation This Week:
- Move slowly. Reflect. Consider. Pray. And determine your personal why. If you need a little help, let me recommend a great resource:
The e-book, It Begins with Why: Finding the Freedom to Spark True Transformation. Find it for FREE here.
- Choose one area of focus. Sweeping changes are rarely sustainable. Use your why to help set your priorities the choose one role where you’d like to see improvement. Start there. Work hard to develop new habits and establish new routines.
- Celebrate the small victories. One day of transforming activity is worthy of notice. Call or text a friend to share your accomplishment. And keep celebrating! When you reach five consecutive days, schedule a coffee date. After a month of consistency, invest in a new tool that will spur your motivation.
- Carefully time the next project. Timing is essential. When you feel comfortable in your new routine, choose another area to tackle. Then start again with step one.
- Enjoy the journey. Transformation isn’t a chore, it’s a blessing with the potential of drawing us closer to God and the calling He entrusted to us.
Remember, we have every reason for optimism—because God has a good plan for our lives and He walks with us as our Helper, Counselor, and Guide. We also have every reason to walk with confidence—because we can do all things through Christ’s strength. We are His children and have every available resource because He meets all of our needs. Allow your why, along with the full support of Jesus Christ to serve as the spark you need to reach true transformation.
That’s a wrap!
2017 is behind us. Are you excited to embark on new adventures in a new year?
Between Christmas and New Year each year, I try to spend some time reflecting on the prior 12 months. Recollections of 2017 brought heart-warming memories, satisfying recollections, and a few feelings of disappointment and discouragement.
I’ve shared with you many times that I’m somewhat of an “obsessive” thinker. It’s hard for me to let go of negative thoughts. My tendency is to dwell on the past and focus on the ugly. Yuck.
As I continually work to grow through that—to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and to reframe my thinking—one practice I work hard to adopt is that of writing down what I’ve learned from both good and bad situations. The process helps me keep my focus on Christ, knowing that He works all things together for our good. It helps me let go of my let downs and aim for the amazing things God has in store.
Since I know that your year was filled with good, bad, beautiful and ugly just like mine, I thought I’d share . .
Five Life Lessons I’m Learning to Embrace This Year
I trust these lessons will encourage us both as we embrace the joy of the Lord even in our jumbled lives:
Celebrate the Little Things.
I set my sights high – pursuing big goals and lofty dreams. And that means I often overlook small victories. I’m learning to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. In rejoicing over even the tiny wins (like keeping my kitchen clean for 2 consecutive days or finishing an assignment on time), I find I’m more motivated to keep marching toward the bigger accomplishments, and I feel a lot more joyful in the process. (Consider Ecclesiastes 3:12 – “I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and enjoy the good life.”)
Trust in God’s Good Plan.
Disappointments come daily. We all know this. Some are mild while some seem to punch us straight in the teeth. When I’m feeling the sting, I allow myself a short window of sadness while I cry out to the Lord. Next, I try to recall some of the wonders and tremendous goodness He has faithfully shown. This helps me move to a place of trust and anticipation for the goodness He will surely bring. Jeremiah 29:11 helps point my heart in a stronger direction: “‘For I know the plans I have for you’—this is the Lord’s declaration—‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” I trust that His plan is good.
Aim for Excellence, Not Perfection.
A friend recently shared this verse: Ecclesiastes 7:16 “Don’t be excessively righteous, and don’t be overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself?” Those are such wise words! Pondering the verse helped me evaluate my motivation for pursuing perfection – is it for the sake of righteousness? To prove myself worthy of God’s love? To bring glory and honor to myself? Perfection is not an attainable goal, nor is it pure in motivation. Instead, I’m learning to pursue excellence, which helps me avoid the feeling of failure and enjoy the satisfaction of doing my best and doing it all for His glory. (See 1 Corinthians 10:31).
Know God, Not Just Know About Him.
God gives us a hunger to encounter him, not just know about Him. I continue to learn to experience Him in deeper ways that He reveals and encourages in His Word. When I practice stillness before Him (Psalm 46:10), meditate on His Word and His ways (Psalm 1:2-3), and draw near to Him with the fullness of faith (Hebrews 10:22), I encounter His presence and there receive His fullness of joy. Our journey of knowing and encountering God will never be fulfilled on this earth, but striving to meet with Him and accept all that He has for us brings encouragement and blessing that fuels my passion for Him. I expect to share much more about this in the future.
Cling to My Why.
Why—the reason behind our work and purpose—is a powerful motivator. No matter the size of the dream, goal, resolution, or lifestyle change that I pursue, a why promises powerful impact. It propels my “want to” into “willpower” that will yield strong habits and healthy, joy-filled attitudes. When I cling to why, reaching goals feels easy, even during hard work, and immensely satisfying. I believe so strongly in the power of why that I’m providing this e-book (a $12.99 value) free for a limited time. I hope you’ll check it out!
How About You?
Which of these life lessons resonate most with you? What life lessons did you learn in 2017 and how will you carry them forward into the new year?
Let’s step into 2017 with eager anticipation of what the Lord will do. Let’s use all that He’s helped us learn to let go of let downs and aim for amazing!
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you.
Jesus, You are the light of the world. When we follow You, we never walk in darkness. You give the light of life.
You are a perfect gift from God – the Father of lights – in whom there is no variation or shadow – only the purest light, brighter than the sun.
Your love radiates Your light. We bask in it and You lavish it upon Your children. Jesus, help us embrace the light of Your love and pour it out to those around us.
Lord, You reveal the glory of the Father. The weightiness of His presence is made known through You. When we know You, we know the Father. When You gave Your life, You paid for our sins and reconciled us to Him, our holy God. Once. Forever.
Peace and hope are Yours – through the blood You shed, You made a way for peace on earth as it is in heaven. Savior. Your light brings the hope of salvation and eternal life with You.
Savior, You are the Word made flesh. Through Your Word, we know the truth. It is a light to our feet. It illuminates our path so we can have the joy of walking in accordance with Your ways.
You want to be known. We will find you when we search for you with all our hearts. Light pierces the darkness and proclaims itself. Those who look for it will not only find but feel drawn to Your light.
You came, my Lord, born in a manger. You are God, made man – to reveal, to illuminate, to manifest the truth, the love, the peace, hope and joy of our glorious King in heaven.
Thank you for reaching down to us so that Your light could shine among Your people.
Shine, Jesus, Shine. Fill this land with the Father’s glory.
As you pause to focus your heart on Jesus this season, consider creating your own devotion of praise. Perhaps you’ll write it down, or maybe you’ll simply declare or sing out your praise to Him as you drive to your next appointment. In whatever form you praise our Lord, He will be pleased and honored – and you’re sure to find blessing as well.
May you bask in His light and receive ALL that He has for you.
It’s a term that’s nearly synonymous with Christmas. We see the 3-letter term everywhere, from giant inflatable yard decorations to miniature tree ornaments. Yes, Christmas is known as a season of joy.
Unlike the holiday joy that stems from the spirit of giving, family gatherings, uplifting music, beautiful sparkling lights, and receiving gifts of all sorts, Jesus – our Savior whose birth we celebrate at Christmas – brings the joy that lasts for eternity.
From ancient Hebrew prophecies, proclamations of the coming Messiah were rich with a message of joy. The prophet Isaiah described the coming of our Savior as a time of joy like that of harvest time, like winning a battle and dividing the spoil, or having an oppressive yoke of burden lifted. (Isaiah 9:3)
The angel who appeared to the shepherds in Luke 2:10 announced the birth of Jesus as “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Have you ever stopped to consider:
Jesus ushers in a tangible level of joy for you and me!
While there is much evidence for God’s gift of joy through Jesus, I offer 5 points during this first week of Advent that will help turn our focus to God’s precious gift of His Son and the joy He brings.
There is fullness of joy in God’s presence.
(See Psalm 16:11). Consider the holy nature of God the Father. His holiness (sanctification, set apart from evil) dictates that He cannot dwell in the presence of sin. We all have a sinful nature. It’s only by the blood of Jesus – the one perfect sacrifice – that we are washed, removed from our sin, and able to enjoy fellowship with the Lord and find joy in His presence.
Jesus reveals God’s nature.
Only through our Savior can we fully recognize the nature and glory of the Father. (See Hebrews 1:3). God wants to be known. He says in His Word that we will find Him when we search for Him with all our heart. He draws us to Himself and has revealed Himself through the gift of His Son. There is great joy in knowing our Creator.
We’re set free from sin through Christ.
By walking in obedience to His Word, we are no longer slaves to sin but are made free (see John 8:33, 36). We find liberation by walking with Christ, escaping the control of sin, and rejecting the shame of past mistakes. In Christ we are blessed, chosen, adopted, favored, redeemed, and forgiven (Ephesians 1:3-7). What great reason for joy!
Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to be with us and live in us.
The Spirit is our counselor, guide, and His manifestation in us produces the fruit of joy. We repeatedly see in Scripture that the disciples of Jesus were (are) filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. Such joy is ours to grasp today!
The love of Jesus brings joy.
Remaining in close fellowship with Jesus (abiding) allows for His love to work in and through us. It deepens our love for Christ and enlarges our capacity to love others. Through abiding love, Jesus not only gives joy but makes our joy complete (see John 15:9-13).
When you are reminded of joy throughout the Christmas season, let it spur your remembrance that the foundational nature of our joy is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.