Break Time

 DawnToDusk

This post originally appeared at: http://www.inspireafire.com/break-time
And yes, that moon photo is one I took recently on a drive through IA. Isn’t it amazing?

I was walking through the Wal-Mart parking lot when three individuals stepped out of their separate cars. They unknowingly fell into step with each other and headed toward the entrance. I watched in amazement as they reached out their left arms with the precision of synchronized swimmers. They moved like extensions of the same organism: first extending, then bending, then bringing their cell phones to their ears.

I don’t think any of them noticed the others. I wouldn’t have noticed them either, except for once I was not on my cell phone. I was not talking with a friend, checking messages, or otherwise engaged. I was simply walking my dog on a shortcut through the parking lot and toward our favorite park. As I went, I realized it had been a long time since I had simply walked and looked – I mean really looked – around me.

computers

All of this convenience, and yet…

There was a time when walking my dog was how I sorted through my day, just me and God and the occasional squirrel who rudely interrupted my ruminating by dashing a fluffy tail under my dog’s nose. There was a time I could say hello to the Wal*Mart greeter without him wondering if I was talking to him or the person on the other end of the line.The convenience of phones not tethered to walls means that I can squeeze in my verbal correspondence almost anyplace. With the advent of smart phones, I can even squeeze in my written correspondence while waiting in line or sitting on a park bench when I should, perhaps, be watching the sunset instead. All of this convenience allows me to connect with those whom I otherwise could never find the time to connect with. And yet…

Somewhere along the line my schedule got a little tighter. I joined this group, then that group, and worked late “just occasionally.” I volunteered for this, signed up for that, and was recruited into oh-but-you’d-be-so-good-at-this!

All of it was important. Most of it was fun. None of it could be dropped. Except of course, it could.

I’m not even sure how it happened, but it was gradual. I didn’t sign up for the next session. I stepped down for a term. I didn’t renew my membership. And suddenly I found myself walking freely across a parking lot, watching the ballet of the synchronized cell phone users and thinking: Sometimes freedom in Christ means giving Him the freedom to act in my life.

sunset road

Freedom means giving God room to act in our lives.

It’s a stunning thought, but I can hinder my own freedom by not giving God the necessary space to act in my life. When I have every minute of every day packed with activities, I am blocking God’s plans. Oh sure, God can and will use the activities I am part of, but I’m talking about that dawn to dusk treadmill that has me running so hard I might not even notice God is there. Heaven forbid He suggest I put my cell phone down and say hello to the cashier. I don’t have time for that!

It’s easier than I realized to become a slave to a schedule of my own creation. And there is more freedom than I ever imagined in letting it go… even for a short time.

It won’t be long before my little cushions of time get filled again. I’ll sign back up for this and return once more to that. But in the meantime, I am pierced by this probing question: How might God have used that time I filled with classes, sports teams, even church activities? While I am free to do as I choose, will I be even freer if I leave a little space for God to do as He chooses?

I’m taking a little break to find out.

MeOnBreak

 

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Stalking Time

computers

Ever wish you had more time? After a 6 month lapse in blog posts, this seems like an appropriate one to share! This was originally posted on Inspire A Fire and you can view the original post at http://www.inspireafire.com/stalking-time. 

I wish I had more time.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t lament the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. There are so many things I’d like to do, so many things I can never quite get to. And the days, the weeks, the years, flit by.

Some people say that time is money, but that just isn’t true. The richest people in the world still have 24 hours in a day.

I don’t deny a certain level of financial stability can purchase amenities that make our lives easier and purpose to give us more free time. But just as likely, those fancy amenities begin a spiral of dependence that seems to take rather than make time. How many of us truly feel we have more time because of our televisions, cell phones, computers, automobiles? Don’t we instead just drive further, work longer, stare at screens more? The answer to more time is not found in increasingly fancy gadgets. The answer to more time is far more basic than that. Here’s what I have discovered.

Stop looking for more time. It doesn’t exist. Sometimes I find myself spending my time trying to figure out a way to squeeze more time into my schedule so that I can finally get started on The Project. It has never worked. It never will, because God – not us – created time. God created the earth and the sun and the daily and yearly cycles. God has also set our days. Moses noted in Psalm 90:10, “The length of our days is seventy years, or eighty if we have the strength.” Even with all the advancements we have made as a society, the average life span is still in line with that of the ancient Israelites. Spending our time looking for more time is not the answer.

clocks

Use the time you have. Remember the man who stockpiled all his grain, even building bigger barns to hold it all in the hopes that once he had enough he could take life easy? “God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” (Luke 12) We can do the same thing with our time – trying to stockpile it so that once we have enough we can do X or Y or Z. Don’t wait for “enough.” Start doing X or Y or Z right now, just a little bit, with whatever time you have.

There’s always time for what you do first. If I’m completely honest with myself, my lament for not enough time is often nothing more than a handy personal excuse. There is something I wanted to do and I did not do it… not because I tried extremely hard and was repeatedly thwarted, but because I never got around to actually starting it. I had time. I spent it on something else. Jesus chided his followers not to worry about life, food, drink, clothing. Worry is a waste of time. “Your heavenly father knows that you need them. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33). How are you spending your time, really? What’s the first thing you do when you get up, when you get to work, when you get home?

Don’t confuse difficult with impossible. If God has laid something on your heart to accomplish, He will give you the means to succeed. “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

Time is an elusive quarry, and the secret to catching it is counterintuitive: Give up the chase. Focus your pursuit not on stalking time, but on stalking those things that you most want to fill your time with. You will find that God has indeed given you enough time to accomplish what he has purposed for you to do.

Pray. And Go.

This blog was originally posted in November 2014 on Inspire a Fire, a blog site for inspirational Christian messages. Visit the original post at www.inspireafire.com/pray-go/.

Sometimes we are the answer to our own prayers.

There is a scene in the third installment of the Harry Potter series that I love. Harry and his friends are attacked by foul creatures known as dementors and are losing the fight. Suddenly, in the hazy distance, Harry sees a figure that looks like his father raise a wand and scatter the dementors. Saved – but how is that possible? Harry’s father is dead.

Fast forward a few chapters, and in that intrepid J.K. Rowling fashion, Harry and his friends have travelled back in time and are watching these same events unfold. They are standing just a few feet from where their rescuer appeared. Even as Harry watches their earlier selves succumb to the fight, he is watching and waiting for their rescuer to appear. Harry knows it will happen because it has already happened. But where is he?

Photo courtesy www.freedigitalphotos.net & Salvatore Vuono

Photo courtesy http://www.freedigitalphotos.net & Salvatore Vuono

Then suddenly Harry realizes: it was him that rescued their earlier selves! It was him he saw from a distance and mistook for his father. And leaping to his feet, he draws his wand and shoots the powerful rays that scatter the dementors. All along he had been waiting, but it was him that had to do it.

Yes, sometimes we are the answer to our own prayers.

I don’t think this principal is accidental. In fact, we see it modelled in Jesus’ work with His disciples. Jesus told his followers to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few,” He said (Matthew 9:37). Jesus saw the rampant needs of the people He encountered. He knew additional help was needed to share the message of salvation and bring physical healing to the sick.

But Jesus did not stop with merely instructing his listeners to pray. Both times when this quote appears in the Gospels, it is followed by incredible action. In Matthew 9-10, Jesus instructed His disciples to pray, and then He sent them out to be the very workers they were praying for. In Luke 10, Jesus similarly instructed His listeners to pray, and then He sent out the seventy-two. “Go!” He declared. “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons…” (Matthew 10:7)

Jesus told His listeners what to pray for, and then He answered their prayer by sending… them!

Field at Sunset

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. (Photo by Janet Beagle)

Be careful what you ask for, I have heard. Because you just might get it. Be careful what you pray for, I might add. Because you just might become it.

God already knows who He wants us to become. He knows what task he has for us to do. Like the twelve disciples and the seventy-two, God wants to send us into the harvest field. God is looking for us to cry out like Isaiah: Here I am, Lord. Send me. Send me! This cry may look different for each one of us. Some may be called to far-away mission fields. Some may be called to a backyard harvest. Either way, the process is the same. The first step is to pray. Then we must go.

Like Harry looking back on his earlier self, we can rest in the assurance that our Savior will come to save us, because He already has. Our God has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die upon a cross and thus pay in full the debt of our sin. But also like Harry, this assurance does not prevent us from doing the task that is at hand. In addition to assuring us of our salvation, our God has also given us a job to do. As Jesus’ followers, we too are called to pray for more workers in the harvest. And then we, too, are called to go.

What Others See in You

This blog was originally posted a few weeks ago on Inspire a Fire. See the original at www.inspireafire.com/others-see/.

Sometimes friends teach me things about myself I never knew.

Like apparently I talk with my hands way more than I realized. And I eat watermelon five times faster than any other food. (Keep this in mind if you’re ever feeding me in a rush.)

Maybe this isn’t exactly critical self-knowledge, but the point it raises certainly is. Sometimes others see something in me that I don’t see in myself.

Sometimes these things are negative. I need friends to encourage me when I’m frustrated, to tell me to snap out of it when I’m defeated, to remind me to be thankful when I’m not. But just as importantly, I need friends to give me positive comments. I need to hear about the strengths I overlook, the skills I take for granted, the gifts I should be nurturing.

I bet you’re the same. I bet you also need others to point out those things you overlook in yourself. And I bet your friends see more in you than you could possibly realize.

Girl in mirror

Sometimes others see something in me that I don’t see in myself. (Photo by Janet Beagle.)

God uses the people in our lives to help us find our way. But I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s not just our friends who see something more in us.

There’s Someone besides my friends who knew I would talk with my hands. Because He created them. There’s Someone who knew I would eat sandwiches slowly and watermelon fast. Because He designed me that way. There is, as Solomon wrote, a friend who is closer even than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Maybe Solomon was referring to our earthly friends, but his words are true of our ultimate Friend as well.

“I have called you friends,” Jesus said to his followers (John 15:15).

God knows us more intimately than anyone could possible know us. He ordained every one of our days before we were born; He created our inmost being; He knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139). God has told us things about ourselves. Listen:

  • You are loved and forgiven (John 3:16).
  • You are protected (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 32:7)
  • You are handcrafted for a purpose (Ephesians 2:10).
  • You are made in the very image of God (Genesis 1:27).
  • You are called to perfection (Matthew 5:48).
  • You are never alone (Matthew 28:20; Psalm 139:7-10).
  • You are surrounded by God’s perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
  • You are part of a family of believers dating back to the very first disciples (John 17:20-21).
  • You are being guided, even in your moments of confusion (John 16:13; Proverbs 3:5-6).
John 15:15 I have called you friends

Listen to the Friend who knows us better than anyone. John 15:15. Image by Janet Beagle

We don’t always know what happens next. If you’re like me, you have a hard enough time keeping up with what’s going on right now. But we can rest in the assurance that Someone else does know. And when we genuinely try to follow His direction, He will keep our feet on the right path.

We are called, right now, to fulfill our days with the work that is at hand. Everything we need has been planted inside us. We just may need a little help bringing it out. Take the time to tell those around you what you see in them. Listen, to what others see in you. Most importantly, listen to the Friend who knows us even better than we can ever know ourselves.

Sometimes friends teach us things about ourselves we never knew.

Whipping up Conflict

Below is an excerpt from my latest Inspire a Fire post:

“If anyone ever asks you, ‘What would Jesus do?’ Remind them that flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is within the realm of possibilities.”

I stumbled across this quote online, along with a picture of Jesus driving vendors from the temple. A more technical person might refer to this as a meme – one of those images that float through cyberspace being reconstituted and shared in various formats. Memes become popular because they present a familiar idea with a new, often edgy, twist.

Like this one.

There are some days when I would like to flip over tables and chase people – if not with a whip, than at least with something to get them on the other side of a door that I could slam. Something tells me, though, that this desire is somehow different than what Jesus would do, even if He did once chase people with whips.

When we ask ourselves what Jesus would do, the answer is usually the exact opposite of the scene we encounter when Jesus drove the money changers and merchants from the temple. We often picture Jesus as meek and mild. Indeed, He gently drew children to Him. He went to the cross silently like a lamb led to slaughter. And yet, we should not confuse these actions with passivity or timidity.

To understand how Jesus handled conflict, we need to look deeper than his surface actions… Read more.

Come

Another of my posts recently made it onto another Christian devotional website.  You can start reading and link to this post below!

The best running advice I ever received was given to me before I became a runner.

For years, I secretly dreamed of being a runner. I wanted to be one of those people who could jog down the street while simultaneously talking to a friend. Some folks made it look so easy. Fun. Meanwhile, I had trouble holding a conversation just walking up a flight of stairs.

I had friends who were runners. Sometimes I even tried to follow their advice. Still, I failed. Until the day I received the ultimate running advice…

Continue reading at http://www.christiandevotions.us/viewblogentry/88.

Inspire a Fire

Exciting news!

I was recently invited to become a monthly contributor to a popular Christian devotion website, Inspire a Fire. My first post was launched yesterday. Check it out at http://www.inspireafire.com/training. (And consider leaving a comment there to let the organizers know they did a good thing inviting me!)

I am so thankful for this new opportunity and for all of you who continue to encourage me to write, even on days when the words don’t do what I want them to.

Stay tuned, my friends. I am still – in the words of this post – in training.