What’s Your Hurry?

I sometimes have the privilege of speaking into the lives of a few precious young women through my church. They are beautiful inside and out, and I count it a huge blessing that they care to hear about anything I have to say about anything. They are just starting out in life, the world seems just so big, and the future seems so unclear. I remember what that feels like. They are in a hurry for the life they dream of to begin. So many choices, so little time.

What I usually feel compelled to tell them is to slow down. We rush here, hurry there. We run late while trying to arrive early. It’s all so very stressful.

Last summer I used a leadership book by Linda Clark with a small group of young women leaders, and one of the best points in the entire book, it alone being worth the price of the book, was this:

“Important things aren’t urgent. Urgent things aren’t important.”

Let that one sink in for a second. Read it again. Go ahead. I’ll wait…

Now this is not across the board true… few quotes are. But generally speaking, it is quite true.

Another quote I have recently stumbled upon is from professor/author Dallas Willard. He said,

“Relentlessly remove hurry from your life.”

Businesswoman RushingThis is harder than you might think. I made that quote one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’ve broken it already several times and it’s still January. We live in a society that values hurry. We feel super lazy if someone asks how we are and we don’t say, “So busy!” or “Running like crazy today!” When was the last time you were able to say, “I have absolutely nothing planned for today”, and you didn’t feel just a tad bit guilty about it?

We are convinced that it is proper and necessary that we fill our days with busyness. Then we wonder why we have such little patience with our children, or our spouses, or peace in our souls. The end of the day comes, and we literally fall into bed exhausted… used up, wrung out, and completely spent!



 

The Fine Art of Saying No

Many of us have failed in learning the fine art of saying, “No”. Someone asks us to add something else to our already jammed packed schedule, and we cannot find it within our ability to say no. We feel guilty. We tell ourselves that we could squeeze one more thing in if we get up early, go to bed later, or cut something or someone else short. We give in. We commit ourselves to yet

one

more

thing.

Learning the fine art of saying no is truly a skill. The Bible tells us to let our yes mean yes and our no mean no. It does not say that with our no must come explanation ad nauseam. We have to learn how to say no without the associated guilt. Learning to say no puts us back in the driver’s seat with our schedules.
Here’s another quote for you… “Either you manage your schedule, or it manages you.”

The scriptures in the Bible are numerous that speak about waiting. Wait upon the Lord. Again and again it says it. You can do your own search, but I can tell you it never tells you to rush about. The only time you’ll see that you better get a move on is with regard to repentance. Only there will hurrying get you anywhere fast.

Look at the ministry of Jesus. Jesus never ran. He never rushed. He never fretted over his busy schedule. On the contrary, Jesus managed his schedule. He planned for time to rest, pray, and commune with the Father.

I recently had a mentor tell me with regard to ministry, that I could only do it out of my overflow. She meant that I could not do what God was asking of me if I didn’t press in and let him fill my cup to overflowing.

Jesus knew this. The people needed so much from him. He could have decided in his mind that he didn’t have time to spend with his Father. There was just so much to do. So many people needed him. And yet, he insisted on getting away and reconnecting with the Father. If Jesus couldn’t run on empty, why do we think that we can? Are you telling me you are busier that Jesus?

It begins with taking back control and denying the need to hurry. It begins with our willingness to wait upon the Lord. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Slow down. Learn to say no. Manage your schedule so it doesn’t manage you. Plan a day that you have absolutely nothing to do and feel great about it. Plug in to the Father and let him fill your cup to overflowing.

Relentlessly remove hurry from your life.

Get Out of Hell Free Card

My second son, Ryan, works as an assistant supervisor at the Chickfila near where we live. He comes home sometimes with some interesting stories of his customers and coworkers. Recently, he came home and handed me a small card. It was a business sized card and it looked similar to the “Get Out of Jail” cards you see in Monopoly games, only it said instead, “Get Out of HELL Free”. After looking at the card, I looked up at Ryan and asked, “Where did you get this?”

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And so the story began.


Ryan found himself running a cash register during the lunch rush that day. It was a Saturday, and a couple of church buses had pulled in for lunch. Apparently, the group was traveling and on their way to a retreat or mission trip or something. A man with the group stepped up to the counter and Ryan asked him what he would like to order. The man said, “I’m the bus driver.”

Ryan, looking a bit puzzled, said, “Okay. Cool.”

“Usually places give the bus drivers free food. Do ya’ll do that?”

“Um. Well, I suppose I could do that.”

A man standing behind the first one, popped his head around and said, “I’m the other bus driver.”
He obviously wanted free food, too. Ryan gave them both free food.

Then, the first man tossed the “Get Out of Hell Free” card down on the counter for Ryan. Not knowing what it was, he picked it up. Ryan had never seen one of those before. (I’ll go ahead and take credit for his ignorance here. Happily) On the reverse side of the card, in tiny print, were a few Bible verses.

The men took their free food without another word. Ryan stuck the card in his pocket and forgot about it for a little while. That is, until he was relieving another employee, and was working the drive thru window. He described a young family that had driven up. There was a dad, mom, kids in the back seat. They paid for their food, but also asked if they could pay for the people behind them.

“Sure!” Ryan said. And then the man handed Ryan a card to give to the people in the car behind them. It was a card Ryan had seen many times. It simply said, “Something extra to show you that God loves you.” It’s a card that we use at our church to encourage our folks to do random acts of kindness for people, but then point them back to the God that loves them.

Ryan did what he was asked, and when the next car pulled up, he said, “There’s no charge for your meal today. The people ahead of you already paid your bill. They asked me to give you this card.”

The two young men in the car were flabbergasted. They couldn’t get over the fact that someone who they didn’t know, had never met, would decide to bless them in that way. The impact was huge. They drove away with free food, and they were able to thank God for it.


As Ryan told me his story, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast the two cards. And if I am totally honest, I guessed the denomination of the giver of the “Get Out of Hell Free” card correctly on the first try. I won’t say it here, but I’ve been in ministry for a while now. I know church people.

Lots of times folks think tossing a card or a Bible tract at someone is sufficient to do our part in spreading the gospel of Christ to the nations. I cannot imagine a more ineffective way to reach people with the good news of Jesus. Is there a better way to belittle what Jesus did on our behalf? Tiny print, on a judgmental card, can never replace a kind act and a gentle nudge toward the Father.

That man who tossed his card at Ryan didn’t even bother to find out that Ryan already has a relationship with Jesus. He never asked or did anything to make Ryan think he cared about him at all. All that guy cared about was getting some free food. What he managed to do was to put a bad taste in Ryan’s mouth about his church and his brand of Christianity, and Ryan is a believer. Imagine if he wasn’t?

As followers of Christ, we are called to much more than that. We can’t throw platitudes at people,  beating them up with our well memorized Bible verses, and expect them to see the great love the Father has for them. Instead, we are to follow the example of Jesus. We invest in people. We show them a kindness, meet a need, offer a gentle truth or encouragement. And then we point them to the reason we were moved to help in the first place. We love them because He loved us first. That was how Jesus began a revolution more than two thousand years ago, and that’s what keeps that same revolution going today until his Kingdom is realized here on Earth.

“I Trust God, But…”

Then you don’t. There is no, “I trust God, but” anything. There is no room for a comma, only a period.

We sit on the fence so many times, afraid of going all in with our trust of the Father. Silly us. I include myself here. I have been known to sit atop these fences. But the Bible is clear, that in believing, there is no fence sitting. We kid ourselves. We are either fully grazing on the side of trusting God, or we are completely wallowing on the other side in the mud of unbelief. (Cow and pig references not intended to offend. Just going with the picture in my head here.)cow1

I am also reminded of the lukewarm church at Laodicea mentioned in Revelation. Those Laodiceans? They were fence sitters. Check it out. (Revelation 3) In the meantime, I can assure you, lukewarm is not preferred by our Father. He said, in essence, you’re with me or you’re not.

My dad has cows on a farm. On a fairly regular basis, a cow will take notice of the grass on the other side of the fence. My father is a good cow tender. He provides for his cows. He never has ever let them go hungry. They have all the water they will ever need on their side of the fence. There is sweet grass in the summer, and plenty of hay stored for winter.

He has provided protection from predators in the way of donkeys, which with one kick can eliminate a coyote on the prowl. There are dense woods to protect them from bad weather, and he has provided a healthy community of other cows with which they live and breed. 🙂 Nevertheless, and without fail, a cow will randomly decide that they can no longer rely on my father for their provision, and they take matters into their own hooves and jump the fence… or push down the fence in spite of the barbed wire there to prevent such shenanigans. Here is where the relevance of this analogy begins to fade, but I hope you get the gist.cow-fence-sitting

The daily struggle for many of us is in staying on the believing side of the fence. How can we possibly manage this?

“I mean, what I am facing is so critical! I may need to step in just a little bit and help right here.”

Seriously? We think God needs our help?

“I can’t possibly be expected to just leave this whole situation up to chance, can I?”

No. There is no such thing as chance in the lives of God’s people.

So what are we to do?

The Bible doesn’t call us cows. That’s nice.

It calls us sheep, and Jesus is our Good Sheppard. Our Good Sheppard provides for us green pastures, still waters, rest, and restoration.

Oh, let’s just take a look at the 23rd Psalm here:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

There’s no fence sitting in there. David is a committed sheep. He knows his Shepherd, and trusts him fully in all areas of life for provision, protection, and eternal care.

David’s Shepherd is our Shepherd  The very same one. He has never had to come back to us and apologize for making a poor choice on our behalf. No. That’s us. How often do we find ourselves at the feet of Jesus in apology for making a bad decision alone and apart from him? For me, more times than I can count.images

Isn’t it time to give up the fence? We are either all in or all out. As for me? I’m choosing my Good Shepherd. I like his track record. Come on over… the grass is fine!

The Winds of Change

“Winds in the east, mist comin’ in
Like something is brewin’ about to begin
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store
But I feel what’s to happen, all happened before”
~PL Travers- Mary Poppins

I love that poem from “Mary Poppins”. The poem is spoken by Bert, the friendly chimney sweep, as he begins his day. He senses the winds of change are coming. Have you ever sensed the winds of change coming in your life? I have sensed them in my own life. mp1

Sometimes those winds are a welcome, and sometimes they fill us with worry. For some, even though current situations may be bad, at least they are familiar. We fear the winds of change could blow upon us an even worse plight.

I try hard to be an eternal optimist. This has been an acquired ability. I have not always seen the glass as half full, and even if I did, I still worried over the empty part of the glass. It was exhausting.

Worry and dread are like heavy weights around our necks. They follow us around like a dark cloud looming on the horizon. Worry and dread send us scurrying around preparing… but for what, we do not know exactly.

Pessimism is a tool of the enemy. I believe that wholeheartedly. Satan is the king of pessimism. How can he not be? He truly has no hope. His end is sealed. His defeat is already secured. The only victory he has left is in the hearts of man, and his best and most reliable weapon is pessimism or hopelessness for they are lies. No one is more qualified to speak about hopelessness than he. He’s got that speech down pat, and he loves giving to us.

Somewhere in the middle of optimism and pessimism is realism. Only I think realism is just a close cousin to pessimism. “Believe for the best, prepare for the worst, and reality will hit somewhere in between.”
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As an optimist, I like the first part of that quote. It goes markedly downhill from there for me. As believers in Christ, we have received and now understand his great love for us. This love he gave to us bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. (1Cor. 13:7) I believe that no one truly understood this life to the extent that Jesus did. This understanding did not leave him a realist or a pessimist. Jesus was the real eternal optimist.

So maybe the winds of change are coming. Turn your face and feel the breeze. (Something is brewing and about to begin.) Perhaps we can’t put our finger on what lies in store. Still, we know that no challenge comes to us that is new to mankind. (1Cor 10:13) (But I feel what’s to happen, all happened before) And God is faithful; whatever the winds of change bring- we will, through his power, be able to endure. And we can be the better for it.

The Problem With Faith

At some point, I think most, if not all followers of Christ have a problem with faith. We concern ourselves with how much we have or don’t have. Lots of us who come to Christ start off with an overwhelming amount of faith. We are excited. Our faith in Christ is new and energizing. It drives us to share what we know about Jesus with the people we know and to some unsuspecting folks we don’t know. As new believers, we are eager to share this faith we have come upon.

But at some point down the road, as time goes by, faith can become an issue. It did, even for the disciples who actually had first-hand knowledge of Jesus. You would think that a person or persons with first-hand knowledge of Jesus, and what he was capable of doing, would have all the faith needed to handle pretty much anything. And yet, the disciples had their bad days, too. This serves to make me feel much better about myself.

Remember the boat and the storm? There was Jesus, asleep in the boat with the disciples, and the storm came up and threatened to capsize them. In their fear, they woke Jesus up and told him of their impending doom. They were right in going to Jesus, but they didn’t approach him with the faith that he could handle the problem, rather only to complain that that he didn’t seem to care about their plight. Uh oh. How many times I have done this very thing?

It was then that he admonished them for their lack of faith saying, “Oh you of little faith!” (Matthew 8:26) This was not a solitary event for his disciples. I would imagine it frustrated Jesus. There was a time that after Jesus had conferred on his disciples the ability to heal in his name that they were unable to heal a young boy who suffered greatly. They brought him to Jesus who healed him easily. Later, and in private, they asked Jesus what the problem had been. Again… they lacked the faith needed to accomplish the task. But then Jesus turned and said that it would only take the smallest measure of faith to move a mountain. (Matthew 17:20) So which is it? Do we need much faith or only a little? I am confused.images

It must, then, be not the measure of our faith that really matters, rather its application. Do we only need to have MORE faith for someone we love to be healed or a situation to be made right again? How many people carry the guilt and shame for not having enough faith to get God to move? I think the approach is off there. Our measure of faith must always allow us to believe that Jesus CAN heal, that he CAN make right the wrongs in our lives. It must be our faith that drives us first to him. But our faith must be placed in the power of his love to do what is best for us in all things.

We are told that God’s ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8) His thoughts are not ours. It is hard for us to believe that an affliction could be a blessing or that a horrible circumstance could be to our ultimate benefit. Of course we believe God can and does heal bodies and situations. Those things we have seen with our own eyes. Yet our faith is made effective when we learn to trust the outcomes of life’s problems to his hand.

I have suffered with migraine headaches almost my whole life. They are sometimes debilitating. I have asked again and again to be healed of these. I have asked others to lay hands on me for healing. I have not been healed yet. Do I believe God can heal me? Absolutely. And I trust, by faith, in his great love for me that while I still suffer, he is blessing me through it and in spite of it. I know with a word that my headaches can be gone, AND through faith I trust his decision to leave them with me. His ways, not mine.

Our faith quotient does not make us sovereign over God to have him do our bidding. Faith continues to keep us at his feet, trusting in him for all things and believing in him for our good in every circumstance even when we cannot see.

And He Shall Reign Forever and Ever

The Messiah’s Hallelujah Chorus is perhaps one of the most amazing works ever in all of Christendom. There have been few works before or since its creation that rival its ability to speak clearly the place of God in his universe. Its message is simple, really, but the delivery is spectacular.

“For the Lord God, Omnipotent, reigneth”

“King of Kings”

“Lord of Lords”

We don’t use language like that anymore. Who says, “reigneth”? Who says,”omnipotent” in everyday language?

Certainly not me.

imagesEven the concept of someone being a king of kings or a lord over lords is foreign to most. We don’t use that terminology in our modern day lives anymore. I do not serve a king in my current day society. I have never bowed to an actual lord before. I’m not a particularly great student of history either. What I do understand about royalty, I have learned from movies. Isn’t that impressive? The only royalty I am the least bit familiar with is England’s Queen Elizabeth, and while she is greatly loved by her people, her real influence in this world, even over her people, is pretty nil. I saw a show recently about how she has people to get in boats to go count her geese. Really?8608891472_0e3167d1ae_c

What I understand about the kings and lords of old is that it was generally a constant struggle to remain in power. Kingdoms rose and fell with the might of armies. Empires lasted only as long as tenuous alliances and treaties were held, and they never held. War was inevitable, because there was always someone else who desired the throne. Kings and Lords were a paranoid lot… I guess for good reason. No great empire ever lasted forever. So the further lines of the Hallelujah Chorus might be difficult to fully comprehend.

“And he shall reign forever and ever…”

No kingdom to date has been able to manage that feat. None. Not one. Even the great Roman Empire fell. Can we imagine a ruler who could reign forever? And ever? But George Frideric Handel was merely quoting scripture when he penned his most famous Chorus.

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15.

It is told, that George was in a bad place personally when he was designing and composing the Messiah. In great debt and deeply depressed, he was compelled to write. And with a tear stained face, he claimed to have seen the very face of God during the writing of the Hallelujah Chorus. We still stand when we hear that part of Handel’s Messiah. Why? This tradition began with King George II, who himself stood when he first heard it, and following his lead, everyone else stood also. Centuries later, we still stand.

Is it simply out of tradition that we stand? Maybe for some. But for many, we stand for the King who is coming and who will reign forever and ever. For most of us, keeping our seat is not possible. We are compelled to stand in honor of the King.

Forever. As Christians, we serve the King who will rule and reign forever… long past any earthly leader or ruler. Long after the wars of this world finish wreaking havoc upon earth’s peoples. Can you see it? Can you picture in your mind a kingdom with no end? A kingdom whose Lord is just, loving, fair and personal? Who knows the name of every person in His kingdom, and cares for them intimately? Forever? Who fears no opposing army because none could oppose him? And none wants to?

If you can see it, then let it sink in. Suddenly it matters a lot less who sits on the “throne” of our current “kingdom”… or any kingdom. We live in this society, but we serve a King. We serve the King whose reign shall have no end. As followers of Christ, we are even now citizens of His kingdom. Does this change anything for you? It should.

crownWe will stand during the Hallelujah Chorus, but seldom, with our everyday lives, do we honor the King who will reign forever and ever. Too many distractions. Too much going on in our world that makes it appear that no one is sitting on any throne with any kind of authority. Too many voices telling us what is important and for what we must live.

It is time for those who love the King to turn hearts toward Him. Open our minds to his rule and his reign. It’s time we begin to prepare for the return of the King. Are we looking for Him? Do we long for His coming? We should. On that day every wrong will be made right, and every man, woman, and child will honor the King who will reign forever and ever. Hallelujah.