the ‘what ifs’

Do you ever think of a ‘what if’ scenario and play it out in your head?  The whole chain of events that would follow?

I do.  I think through how I would react in any given situation and how to do it most efficiently.  And, these ‘what ifs’ of mine are not lovely events.  I wish I could say it went something like, “What if I won a million dollars?”  Or, “What if a shower of season-appropriate, in my size, Banana Republic clothes fell out of the sky?”

Nope.  Not the kind of stuff I think on.  I go for the run-of-the-mill disaster scenarios.  “What if my girl gets in an accident while she’s out riding her bike?”  And, “What if my husband dies?”.    Or, “What if there is a terrorist attack too close to home?”   It doesn’t take a genius to know that these things could happen.  They do happen.  Also, I’m pretty sure we all have these thoughts and others like them.

I would guess that just about everyone goes there sometimes.  So what’s the big deal?  My problem is in the dwelling.  Thinking through the scenario in great detail.  Making plans for what is not and maybe never will be.  I’m no Girl Scout, but I do like to be prepared…just to an extreme.  Bad stuff happens every day.  But, the bad stuff shouldn’t be the focus.  Shouldn’t command so much of our attention.

My Grandpa J. taught me to look far down the road when driving, instead of at the road directly in front of the bumper.  When we look out ahead we’re looking at a larger view and we can better stay on course.  We’re not ignoring the road right ahead of us, we’re just taking in a bigger picture.  Our view still includes the foreground, it just won’t be our focus.

The same is true in life:  

If we look at the ugly situation right in front of us vs. the Big Picture, we can’t very well stay our course.

 

As a follower of Jesus, my Big Picture focus is Him.  I trust He is in control of it all.  I trust that everything He does is for His glory and my good.  When the ‘what ifs’ pop up–take those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), give thanks and ask for protection (Philippians 4:6), and think about something else (Philippians 4:8).

Maybe it’s like we’re in training.  If we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can train our minds, He will become our go-to when the ‘what ifs’ strike.  When something bad does happen, hopefully, we will be ready to turn to Him first.  Yes, we will still feel in that situation–anger, grief, depression…  Yet, maybe we can stay on our course of living a life that glorifies Him and is eternally-minded.

Jesus wants us to bring all our cares to Him.  Talk to Him.  Tell Him your worries.  Acknowledge Him as the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, loving Father He is.  Let’s try to lean on Him in this.  Trusting Him in all situations, real or imagined.

5 Elements of a Successful Quiet Time

So, what does a ‘successful’ quiet time look like?  We’re not looking at outcome here. Not measuring results.   The question can be answered in as many ways as there are people on this earth.  You may have your own routine and the next person is entirely different.  You may read, pray, sing, write, listen, cry.  Bow, stand, sit, walk, lay down.  We all have our own style.

However, I would suggest that there are certain elements that should be involved in every quiet time, no matter your style.  But first, let’s define quiet time.  Simply put, it is a time of day set aside for just you and God…and I would stress the importance of it taking place first thing in the morning.  Many would argue that’s not necessary.  I disagree.  Giving our firsts is a theme in the life of a Jesus-follower.  Why not the first part of your day?  BUT, any time of day is better than not at all.
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Jesus set a good example of the essential parts of a daily quiet time.  Go figure.

1. Recognize your need for Him.  Often we see Jesus going to the Father with a heavy heart.  He went sorrowful, burdened, weary.  I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of all that to go around.  Take it with you when you meet with Him.  And leave it there.  Again.  And again.  And again.  This is also the time for thanksgiving and praise.  When we truly see our need for Him, we can’t help but be grateful!

2. Go to a desolate place.  The word desolate is used repeatedly, especially in reference to Jesus being alone.  In Matthew 14:13 says, “Now when Jesus heard this [of John’s death], he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.”  In this verse, the Greek word for desolate is érēmos – an uncultivated, unpopulated, deserted place; (figuratively) a barren, solitary place that also provides needed quiet (freedom from disturbance).  It’s so important to carve out some time that is in a desolate place.

Now, let’s make that real for our lives.  That will usually mean getting up early.  I know.  I strongly dislike that idea.  I don’t even like to say that phrase.  To get alone, without distractions and with a sole focus.  It is worth whatever effort it takes to make this happen.  Be creative.  Remember, your quiet time will morph over time. It’s ok to try something and realize it doesn’t work.  Try something else.

3. Be without sin.  Jesus was without sin.  We, as followers of Jesus, are forgiven and cleansed.  That does not give us a license to sin.  But, we still sin.  We still need to confess and repent when we sin.  Imagine a person with which you have a close relationship.  If you do something in opposition to that person, the relationship with that person will not be the same until you go and make things right.  It’s the same with our relationship with God.  When we sin against Him, we must go to Him and make things right.  Confess and repent…turning from our sin and realigning with Him.

4. The Word.  Jesus is the Word.  Big W.  The Word.  Praise God, we have the Word in the form of our Bibles (and the Holy Spirit).  This is where it may look a bit different from one person to the next.  We can read it or hear it.  Paper, screen or headphones.  It doesn’t matter.  Just get it in your heart and head EVERY DAY.

5. Obedient heart.  Jesus set the ultimate example in this.  He ‘emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:7-8)

For this last element of a successful quiet time, we need to say, “Yes, Lord.”  We’ve laid out our concerns, we’ve confessed, our sins and we’ve ingested the Word.  It’s action time.  At this point, some days it will be a joyous consent.  Other days it will be with clenched teeth.  Many days, through streams of tears.  Yet, the answer should still be yes.  Oh, friend.  Of course, there will be days when you can’t find your ‘yes’.  Weeks or sadly, even years, when we say ‘no’.   Like a toddler who just wants her own way.  And now.  But there is blessing in the yes.  Let us trust the One who knows all and is Love.

Philippians 2:12-15a Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence

but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent…

Quiet time will not look the same for all of us.  We are each created unique by our loving Father.  Just like our own children and the time we spend with them.  The style of the time will vary, but we still need that quality and quantity time with our kids.  So the Father wants quality and quantity time with us, His kids.  Quantity time…every day, more than once a day, if needed.  (I need it.)  Quality time…recognizing our need for Him, getting alone with Him, confessing our sins to Him, taking in Him by the Word and saying “yes” to Him.

Early to Rise?

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  Mark 1:35

 

If Jesus, Savior and Creator, needed to have a ‘quiet time’, how much more do we, rescued and redeemed sinners, need to do the same?  It would stand to reason, that maybe we need it even more, being that we are imperfect.  Yet Jesus, in so doing, was not only setting an example for us in his perfectness, but it was also a good indication that he really was fully man.  He needed that time away with the Father to pray before ministering that day.  To align with God’s will, to be strengthened, encouraged…just loved on by the Father.

Jesus gave his all to everyone around him.  Do you give a lot of yourself to those around you?  If you’re a mom, the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’.  We so need that time at the start of each day to pray…to submit to God’s will, to draw on His strength and to just be loved on by our Father.

But, oh, I struggle with this!  For so long now I’ve known I should make this a priority.  This rising early and getting alone with God. You see, I am in the Word everyday.  That is a must.  Even if it is done while the kids are running laps around you asking endless questions.  Make. It. A. Priority.  I cannot stress enough the importance of reading or  hearing His Word every day. But to rise very early in the morning, get alone, and pray?  That.  That is taking it to the next level.  I mean, really praying.  On your face, crying out to the Lord.  Sitting silent, listening.  A supernatural conversation with I Am!

What are we missing out on by neglecting this practice?  I can only imagine.  Heart healing, peace that passes understanding, a passion to reach the lost.  The list goes on and on.   I’m not saying we won’t ever have those things if we’re not praying early in the morning.  But, how much more will we know and experience Him if we are being consistent in drawing near?  What a change that would make in our witness if we are putting Him first in our day.  The constant, repetitive, faithful setting aside time to just know Him.  Being filled up in His presence so for the rest of the day we have something worthwhile to give.  Praying for what weighs on our hearts.  Prayer is a powerful thing.  Both together, the pouring out and letting Him fill.  Taking the time to be still and listen.  Repenting, praising, honoring, submitting.

The pastor this weekend, stressed the importance of seeking His face as opposed to seeking His hand.  Not just what God can do (His hand) for us, but to KNOW (face) Him.  You’ve heard of the quantity vs. quality debate for relationships?  Well, I think most people would agree that we need both.  Quality, yes, but we are imperfect people.  We have bad days.  We still sin and need to repent daily.  Quiet times are not always going to go the way you want.  There will be interruptions and we may feel we’re not hearing from Him.  Yet, if we can also focus on quantity…that day after day after day of seeking and being still and pouring out our hearts.  That is what will help us know Him better.  We’ll have some great quality days that make us walk with a bounce in our step and a renewed purpose, but those days and days of quantity will slowly build a solid foundation of maturity in our relationship with Him.

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So, what does this early morning time look like?  I need a plan and a goal.  That sounds so unspiritual, but isn’t part of our walk about discipline?  What can you do to add this to your life?  What about sleep, you ask.  I know.  That’s been my hold up.  I like sleep.  I am not happy about getting out of bed in the morning, but this time with Him is more important than sleep. So, to think it through… I am pretty sure at this point in my life I need 7 hours of sleep each night.  For me that means I need to go to bed no later than 11:30 pm and get up at 6:30 am. (Ugh.)  That would give me 30-45 minutes before the rest of the house is ready for breakfast.  I would include prayer, reading the Word, worship music, journaling and more prayer.  You could sit in your car, in the bathroom, go for a walk.  Think it through.  Join me in making this a priority. This is more of what it means to lean on Him, right?  To recognize our need for Him.  Every. Day.  What does your quiet time look like?  Have you been able to establish a habit of rising early, getting alone with the Father and praying?  Please share!

 

Goodness and Mercy Pursue Me

I just wanted to share what encouraged my heart today, in hopes it will do the same for you.  I read Ann Voskamp’s blog for today: when you’re finding it hard to keep up.  The main idea is based on Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue all the days of my life. 

IMG_20160403_185007015 She explains that the word pursue in Hebrew is radaph and “it means  to pursue, to run after, to chase…to hunt you down”.

That is what God says goodness and mercy do in the life of a believer.
So, when we’re striving to keep up with all that is our lives, she encourages:  “We don’t live in pursuit of a better life–it’s the blessed life that’s in pursuit of us.”    
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That is good news to me.  Especially where my spiritual life is concerned.  Leaning on Him is ingrained in my day to day life.  Without thinking I lift a prayer to Him.  My thought life has been trained to take thoughts captive.  That is usually my go-to.  But lately, I’ve been struggling.  It’s hard to explain.  Like it has lost its flair.  That feels so wrong to say that.  But let’s be honest here.  The christian life is less than glamorous.  I can strive (and sometimes stop striving) for what I think a mature christian life should look like.  It’s a good reminder to know that He is always pursuing me.  We get tired, discouraged, lose interest, mess up, etc., but His goodness and mercy tirelessly and perfectly pursues us.
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So, when we’ve “lost that lovin’ feelin'”, let’s keep leaning.  As a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit in us will still stand for the truth and love that we know He is.   And that can be the catalyst, if only very weak, that will push us to lean in to Him.

Working myself out of a job

It is so important to teach our kids life skills. To give them a taste of daily real life. Can I get an ‘Amen!’?  Ok, I’ll give you that…sometimes it’s just easier to do it myself. I get that. I do that. What part of momhood is easy?  Um, I vote none.

dirtykids

Dirty, messy cuteness abounds.  They get older and a little less dirty, but sometimes the mess remains.  One day they will have their own place to call home.  (Yes, they will.  And it will feel like it went by in a blink.)  Let’s love our kids now by not letting them face a crisis of ‘why isn’t my apartment cleaning itself?’ once they’re on their own.  Let’s get ourselves organized.  Do what works for you, but have a plan.  I like to split up my weekly cleaning/chores.  Monday is laundry and break-making.  Tuesday is putting away laundry and dusting.  Wednesday is trash/recycling collection, clean out pet cages and brush those fat cats. (Yes, actual cats.  Actual cats that are fat.)

You get the idea.

chore list

It’s not really the way you organize it that matters.  Just have a plan.

Then…delegate.

Give them a job and a deadline.  Make sure their job fits their age.  Write it down on a pretty chart.  Or don’t. Follow through until it’s done.  Don’t get frustrated and just do it for them.  My kids help with something each day.  Even if I have to make stuff up.  My two oldest girls do ALL their own laundry.  Yay, me!  Oh, ya, yay them!

empty dryer

I see one part of my job as working myself out of a job.  Gradually giving them more and more responsibility for their own care and upkeep.  So, my loads of laundry have gotten smaller instead of growing.  That is huge when you have teen and preteen girls.  They never complain about something not being clean when they want it!  My youngest is 8.  Her job is to make sure her dirty clothes get to the laundry room on Monday, fold and put away her clean clothes.

folded clothes

We’re doing them a favor.  And, we’re doing ourselves a favor.  Win-win!  What jobs are your kids responsible for?  If you don’t know where to start, start with prayer.  Our perfect, loving, heavenly Father wants to give us parenting advice.  Just ask Him.  Read His word.  Seek wise counsel from others who have already traveled this path.  Lean on Him and use the resources and gifts He has provided.

Friends Woven

God is good. He is good no matter our circumstances or feelings about them. A couple days ago a text caused some minor upheaval in my heart. Someone is making a decision I cannot control. It’s just that it wasn’t part of my plan. It affects things long term. A commitment unkept. A future uncertain. A dream for business and ministry on shaky ground. Yet, God knows this. He knew it before the text was even a thought in her mind.

Today my friend called. She just wanted to say she was thinking about me, our business too. Praying and planning and thinking. All while I was unknowing. God knew.  His Spirit prompted her to action.  The thinking, praying, calling. All part of His plan. And my heart? Blessed. Uplifted. Lighter. Joyful. And now, hopeful. Praise God for friends who pick up phones and speak life. Praise God for loving me well and prompting my friend to do the same.

One more reason to lean on Him. He knows me, loves me, acts on my behalf. I lean…