Monday, March 10, 2014

Stop Feeling Guilty About Needing Rest!

It’s daylight savings time. I probably don’t have to convince you that you’re tired. Most of us wake up in a fog until we’ve had that first (or fourth) cup of coffee. Then, next thing we know, we’re going to bed about to do it all over again. Life seems like it moves a hundred miles per hour. We all know when we’re tired.

If we all know we’re tired, it seems strange that so many of us (yours truly included) feel guilty about needing rest. We work 50+ hour weeks and feel like we’d be “letting people down” if we rested. The title of this blog is simply what I find myself speaking to others, and myself, far too often.

So is rest spiritual? More importantly, will the answer change how you approach rest?

I love the account of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:3-9. Right in the middle of all the hoopla that is 1 Kings, we find the famous Elijah with a rest problem:

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.
Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”
So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.

Definitely not your everyday experience. Elijah had already done a lot of things as a prophet, but God wasn’t done with him yet. So what can we learn from Elijah’s experience?

1.    Everything seems more dramatic when you’re tired
No, you’re not turning in to a teenager again. It’s been proven that when you are sleep deprived you are more anxious, irritable, and self-absorbed. Elijah had already done a lot in serving God. You may have heard of a little incident when he called on God to rain down fire from the sky to consume other idols on Mount Carmel. Pretty intense stuff, but that’s a very different Elijah than we see in this section of scripture. Here, Elijah is asking to die! He is ready to give up! Elijah isn’t a sissy! He’s in desperate need of a break!

2.    God isn’t mad that you need a break
I don’t know how many of us would actually admit we’ve felt this way. It may come out as something like, “I should be able to handle this,” “I can’t let people down,” or “I don’t want people to be disappointed.” Granted, I am in the midst of crazy ministry all the time, so that’s where I see this play out up close, but it’s applicable to everyone no matter your vocation. Maybe deep down, we feel like we’ve failed if we have to take a break. What’s interesting about this section of scripture is that we really see the heart of God for Elijah. The angel doesn’t appear and say, “Oh you of little faith, get up and get moving.” No! The angel gives him food and then lets him keep napping! Don’t lose sight of the fact that God created the Sabbath! None of us have it together more than the creator of the universe and even He took a break.

3.    Maturity has little but everything to do with it
If that seems confusing, stick with me. None of us would say that Elijah needed rest because he lacked spiritual maturity. We wouldn’t have walked up to him and said, “Hey man, maybe if you spent some more time in the word, you wouldn’t so tired! Have you tried journaling?”
Don’t be that guy.
Elijah was a prophet of God! He didn’t lack spiritual maturity. The fact is, he had been running for his life and was tired. Spiritual maturity doesn’t have anything to do with our need for rest. However, it has everything to do with whether we actually rest. It takes maturity to recognize that you are tired, burned out, and need a break. It takes some courage to walk in to work or your home and say, “I need to take a little break.”

I have heard and said many different excuses for not taking a break. Usually, I know I didn’t speak up soon enough when I end up in a tired, puddle of emotions. It doesn’t have to get that far. Rest doesn’t have to be dramatic. We have to step away from our people pleasing, prideful selves and admit that we’re human.

I really believe that rest is a next step for a lot of people. God may have been telling you for a while that you need to slow down. Don’t let things get dramatic before you do. God isn’t disappointed that you need a break (and frankly, that’s where your concern about approval should end) and you don’t lack spiritual maturity because you’re tired, but it’s a sign of maturity to say you need a break.

Just like Elijah, God has more He wants to do through you. If you’re a leader of a team or organization, you need to know that you set the tone of this for everyone who is following you. If you aren’t being intentional about resting, your team probably isn’t either. Invest in your relationship with Him and embrace the spiritual side of rest. 

Monday, February 17, 2014


I know my expression must have conveyed confusion as I stared back at her. I had just finished venting to a friend about some of the frustration I was feeling and her response had simply been, “So quit. Leave ministry and do something else.”


Quit? That was ridiculous. Sure, it had crossed my mind before. I had joked about it and maybe not so joked about it a few times, but actually quitting was never an option.


I’m sure you’re much smarter than I am. I’m sure that things don’t have to “simmer” quite as long for you, especially when God is showing you something. However, simmering is exactly what I’ve been doing on the idea of perseverance.

I feel like I am coming out of a discouraging season. Professionally and personally, there have just been a barrage of different discouragements. Even the trip I was supposed to take, to visit one of my favorite people, in an attempt to end some of the discouragement got canceled by some freak winter weather. My attempt at encouragement ended in discouragement!

All of my simmering finally came to a climax Sunday morning. I work with a lot of talented, smart people. Perfect by no means, they always give 100% to their work. I finally caught a few minutes of time on Sunday morning when I could just sit uninterrupted. I was observing some of the people I work with and thought, “It’s kind of crazy they want to come do this every week, even though there’s always someone unhappy or complaining.”

Suddenly my God revelation hit me in the face.

I committed James 1:2-3 to memory awhile back thinking it might be helpful for encouragement.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

You’ve probably heard this verse before. It may have been quoted to you an attempt to encourage you. Let me tell you right now- I don’t get joy out of trials. I don’t find joy when someone hurts me or I make an embarrassing mistake. I don’t find joy when God calls me to draw a line and start fighting insecurity head on. That’s probably why I haven’t really given that verse a lot of thought.

I have a very dear friend who is much wiser than I am. I was explaining to her how there’s just something in you that wants to keep moving forward. Even when people are critical and things are falling apart, something keeps telling you to move forward.

“Jesus,” she says simply.

I told you she was wiser than me.

Of course! The joy is not from trials, it is from your faith growing through trials! It’s through the perseverance that comes from that growing faith! That’s why a pastor can deliver message after message to blank staring faces. Why a someone can continue to counsel someone even when it seems like they aren’t listening. That’s why I can look at my friend blankly when she suggests I quit. That’s why so many people continue to persevere in their faith.

I make no apologies for being a list person. There are three things that I have committed to reminding myself about when I feel like giving up:

  1. Don’t lose sight of the source of your joy
    Looking for joy from a job, friends, or even someone you really love is a recipe for heartache. The source of your joy is Christ. Your life is hidden with Him. He has a specific purpose for you and He isn’t finished with you yet.
  2. Trust that you are developing perseverance
    If I can’t feel it, it’s harder for me to believe it. The truth is that God promised to continue the good work he started in us. We’re still in process. Whether you feel it or not, persevere and allow God’s truth to trump those feelings.
  3. Fall more in love with your Father
    This has been huge for me lately. When you feel like giving up, challenge yourself with growing your faith. Pick a book of the bible to study through. Commit to going to your small group consistently. Stretch yourself to grow in knowledge and intimacy with your heavenly father.

As I said, some of this was a recent revelation and reminder for me. I definitely don’t have it down to an art. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had the unfortunately privilege of witnessing me wrestle with perseverance. There are still times where I don’t think I’m cut out for the work God’s called me to. Luckily, He’s reminding me that He’s more than capable of handling it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Identity and Ruth

Seeing as we’re in the middle of a six week series on identity, it’s been something that’s dominated my thoughts.
A lot of people can poke fun at my love for the book of Ruth, but the reality is simply that God always speaks to me through those scriptures. I don’t know if it’s the style it’s written in or the story itself, but it’s one of those “never fails to speak to me” books.
So with that, I naturally learned a little something about identity by looking at Ruth’s life.
1.       She had a story for every major influence

In this series, we have already looked at how major events, culture, and our caregivers shape our lives. Hello! Have you read Ruth? This girl can check off every one of those! The book opens with her husband dying (pretty major event) and Ruth moving to a new country. It just so happens that Ruth the Moabite (labeled that way several times throughout the book) would not exactly have been thought of as the most ideal woman in Bethlehem (Check out the major cultural attitudes the Israelites had concerning the Moabites). Furthermore, even after Ruth declares her devotion for her, Ruth’s mother-in-law actually says to the people in Bethlehem, “Do not call me Naomi. Call me Mara for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full and the Lord has brought me back empty.” Wow. Even after a moving display of devotion, Ruth wasn’t enough for Naomi. Do you think these things probably affected Ruth’s identity?
2.       She didn’t belong in those fields!

I’m sure I lost a few of you already, but try to stick with me here. Did I mention that all of those things that affected Ruth’s identity happened in chapter one of the book? Chapter two opens with Ruth out in the field trying to find enough barley for her and her mother-in-law to live off of. The reality is, Ruth didn’t belong there. She was a foreigner and didn’t really belong in Bethlehem. Plus, gleaning in the field after the harvesters was something that was reserved for the poorest of the poor. You know that while she was working in that field, she must have thought about her husband. It probably occurred to her more than once, that if he was around, she wouldn’t have to do this. There must have been another option.
I feel like this often. When it comes to the struggle with identity, I know I’m not supposed to be out in the field. I know there must be a better option. In fact, I know that the better option is a life lived rooted in Christ. But just like Ruth, I often can’t see past the field. All I know is that I’m not supposed to be here.
3.       She was redeemed

It turns out there was a better option. Long story short, there’s this guy named Boaz who redeems Ruth. (Hello Old Testament metaphor for Jesus!) He marries her and thus ensures that she and Naomi are taken care of. There are some really beautiful moments between Boaz and Ruth. She just can’t seem to understand why he would show her favor. He doesn’t treat her like a scandalous foreigner, in fact, he goes out of his way to show her kindness. Suddenly, Ruth is no longer labeled as “Ruth the Moabite.” Instead, after she gives birth to a son, the women of the village tell Naomi that Ruth “loves her and is more valuable than seven sons.” (Just trust me and know that that was a big deal!)
I’m actually not too far gone when I say that Jesus does the same thing for us. Boaz is meant to be a foreshadowing of Christ. Christ redeemed us by going to the cross. Also in the same way as Ruth, we are no longer labeled as foreigners or Moabites, but 1 John 3:1 says that we are children of God!
We don’t belong in the fields of our despair. We know that Christ came to bring life. Will we accept it? It would have been easy for Ruth to shrug off Boaz’s attention towards her. It would have been easy for her to stay in that field and deny his love for her. It’s also really for us to stay in the field of our identity crisis, wishing “this person would affirm us” or “this event would make us feel like we made it,” the list could go on and on. I don’t know about you, but I know that that stupid field only makes me hurt more. There’s no life there! Stop picking up the leftover pieces of God’s love and accept his full on, 100%, scripture proved affection for you.

Monday, July 22, 2013

3 Things from Guatemala

I knew in preparing to go to Guatemala for the second time, things would be different. I was making the trip solo, in that my dear friend now called the country home and was no longer a visitor. In all the ways things would be different, I was prepared God would still have plenty to show me.

It's been about a week since I came back, and I still experience one of the crazy things that happens when you return from a trip like mine-- you nearly burst to tell everyone around you all the things you experienced. That's why I want to share three things that God showed me, reminded me about, and gifted me with while in Guatemala.

1. People need Jesus

I love America. Flushable toilet paper puts us up pretty high in my book. Despite our issues, we have a lot going for us! It's not always so easy to see our desperate need for Jesus. Anytime you go to a country where the majority of people live below the poverty line, you don't have to look far to see hurting people. While there are often physical needs, there are also spiritual needs. People's need for Jesus becomes much more obvious when they can't hide it behind comfort and material things.

Here's the kicker- there are people everywhere that need Jesus. Right here, there are people that are broken and desperate and need Jesus. We just don't make it quite as obvious. My pastor summed it up perfectly this weekend when he said, "Our comfort level works as an anesthetic on our hearts; masking our desperate need for God."

This reminder gave me a challenge. It's easy for me to see that people need Jesus in Guatemala. However, Jesus has called me to Statesboro, Georgia. It's completely different, but the truth remains that people need Jesus. What am I going to do about that? Am I going to go after and pray for the people in small town America as energetically and passionately as I do the people in Guatemala?

2. People are Answering the Call

Have you ever walked down a dark hallway and saw the smallest pinpoint of light breaking through a doorway? That's what I kept thinking about when I was in Guatemala. Even among the darkness and despair, there are faithful people working to bring the good news of Jesus. That pumps me up! It gives me hope! It gives the people of Guatemala hope!

There are all kinds of people who are completely sold out to the call that God has given them. They move away from their family, friends, and the comforts of home to take hope to people. Just witnessing that faithfulness for a week is encouraging!

The fact is, not all of us are called to give it all up and move to Guatemala. There are times when I wish I was! (More on that in a minute). That's one of the most beautiful things about the Church! We are all called to go and make disciples, but we do that in so many different ways.

How are you answering the call to go and make disciples right where you are? How can you support those who are answering that call in foreign countries? Will you join them in prayer? Will you give to them financially?

3. Your Past/Circumstances do not Define You

This one is pretty personal for me. There are things in my life that I wish weren't the way they are. Don't get me wrong, I am blessed beyond what I can imagine, but there are some things that affect you even if you wish they didn't. So much of my relationship with Jesus has been walking through different things and understanding why things are the way they are (often having to accept that I won't know why).

One of my favorite parts about visiting Guatemala is being able to be around some amazing kids. These kids are orphans for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, their parents are gone and there is no one to care for them. Other times, they end up at the children's home because of neglect. Despite my minimal Spanish, these kids teach me so much.

These kids didn't do anything to bring about their circumstances. They didn't do anything to become orphans. They often struggle with their past. They often struggle with the void of not having a parent to love on them.

In the number of years I have walked with God, nothing has been a more meaningful gift from my loving father, than looking at these kids and not seeing orphans, but seeing beautiful, loving children. There's nothing much more profound than that. As I went through the week in Guatemala, God kept speaking to me about how these kids are not defined by their past and neither am I. I heard someone say once that our past may explain us but it does not define us.

God gave me a huge gift by allowing me to witness that truth first hand. What is God speaking to you about your past? What do you need to allow him in to, in order to heal and move beyond your past?

One final thing. There are times when I wish God would send me somewhere like Guatemala. There are days when I don't care where he's called me, I'm tempted to jump on a plane and go anyways. That's one of the biggest things I've had to process through upon returning home. It's so frustrating to experience God somewhere and then come home and feel like you're dropped right back in the middle of petty, silly, pointless struggles. It's easy for me to experience the gospel in Guatemala. Maybe it's because no one can communicate with me, so I don't feel involved in the petty things of life. Maybe it's because I'm prepared to experience God and I'm actively seeking him. I have a feeling that second part is right.

I don't want to have to go thousands of miles away to experience God like I do in Guatemala; to experience the gospel. What am I going to do about that? What are we going to do about that?

I think it's a daily fight against apathy. I think we have to fight against allowing our comfort to numb our hearts towards people and the gospel. We can't just show up and expect God to move in our hearts. How are we preparing to engage God? What things in our lives are hindering us from that? There are people that need Jesus right here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Energy of Vision

Vision makes a huge difference in your life.

I'm not talking about the, "I forsee a handsome man walking into your future" vision. I'm talking about a true, God-given vision that propels you forward every day. Seeing that vision fulfilled is what gets you out of bed everyday. It gives you purpose and energy.

The vision for my life took an unexpected turn when I quit grad school. I always had a vision for my life but I hadn't asked God what his vision was.

As I've been praying and reflecting on the vision for my own life, God has revealed a couple of things.

When you're pursuing God's vision, it energizes you!
There is nothing more frustrating than having no purpose. For me, it leads to nothing but self-absorption and frustration. One of the things I love the most is supporting those who are on the "front lines" of ministry. It may seem a little crazy, but I love helping people do pretty much anything. I get excited when I can help someone! Luckily, God loves me enough to give me a wonderful job with amazing people that are happy to let me help them! I can't get bored doing that!

God loves you too much to give you a vanilla vision!
This may be one of the hardest things for people to grasp. Your purpose in life won't look like anyone else's! That's awesome!! Our world would be so boring if God gave us all the same purpose! Instead, he's given all of us different gifts and passions and ultimately, different purposes! Stop fighting the vision God has for your life because someone else's looks more appealing!

When I think about the vision God has for my life, I think about 1 Peter 4:10: "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms"

I love that verse so much! Have you surrendered your vision for your life over to God? What is he pushing you to pursue? How are you serving others with your gifts?

One thing is for sure, when you allow God's vision for your life direct everything you do, you won't have to fight for a purpose.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Proximity and Grace

Over the years, I have walked through struggles with other people. As Christians, we are called to bear one another's burdens. I rarely have any profound answers but I don't mind listening and offering words of comfort where I can.

Even with those experiences, there's a difference in showing grace to someone when the proximity is different. For example, there's a difference between walking along side a woman as she tries to end an affair and when that affair involves your husband.

The proximity of sin can make it seem impossible to forgive or offer grace to someone. Whenever sinful people are involved, there comes cheating, betrayal, and hurt. What do you do when someone hurts you, but they want to repent? How do you still have that person in your life?

We're called to forgive

Ephesians 4:32 says we are to be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving others as Christ forgave us.

That's it. The bottom line is we're called to forgive. We often forget how much God's forgiven us for when we're faced with forgiving others (see Matthew 18 for the guy who forgot this). Forgiving others doesn't mean that we sit by and let something bad happen, and its not something we can do on our own. It's only the power of the Holy Spirit in you that will allow you to forgive someone who's hurt you.

There are consequences to sin

God doesn't punish us as a result of sin (He already did that with Jesus on the cross). Consequences of sin are used to teach us.

There's probably nothing more hurtful than when someone close to you hurts you, and you recognize that the relationship that remains will not be the same. God can reconcile relationships, but that doesn't mean that they're the same (often, that's a good thing). As we go through the process of forgiving someone, it's okay that the relationship is not always the same. I would even be so bold as to say that it's okay not be as intimate with someone who's hurt you (again, changes in relationships can be healthy and necessary).

Don't harbor bitterness and anger

So we often manage the first two fine. We can forgive someone, and we we definitely agree with the fact that there's consequences. The part that gets tough is this bitterness business. We feel wronged, so we say, "We'll I'll forgive them, but I don't have to forget." While I'm not saying you have to forget (I'll hit this in a minute) we tend to say that line in a bout of anger and bitterness.

Bitterness, anger, and resentment never made anyone feel better, and it certainly is not on the path of reconciliation. Hear me out, I've been so mad at people before that I haven't been able to look at them, let alone be in the same room with them! Even so, it's not long before you start to realize that while the other person committed the sin against you, you're the one still steaming about it.

Again, resentment and anger are not things I let go of on my own. This is a continual process of surrender.

Don't deny the pain

Even when you forgive someone, there may still be pain. The pain and consequences don't just disappear. Too many times we bury our pain because we feel like we can't forgive someone and still feel hurt.

Don't allow pain to stay buried. Give it to God. Allow him to heal your heart. Psalm 34 says that God is close to the broken hearted.

The church body is made up of a lot of broken people. We will hurt each other. There will be conflict. It is only by forgiving each other and allowing God in to the middle of our mess that we can move towards reconciliation and peace.

God wants us to live full, joyful lives in Him! We don't have to live with the burden and hurt. Allow God in. Allow him to work in the mess and walk in the fullness of Christ!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dumb Things I Say to God

Sometimes I really say dumb things to God. Granted, we're in a committed relationship, so that's okay, but I usually learn something as a result.

I was wrestling with some things earlier this week and a friend asked me "Why?" I don't remember what specifically brought on the question, but in my head, I heard myself say, "because I feel like I'm going to let God down."


I know that doesn't make sense, but that was my gut reaction to the question of why I was wrestling with a particular problem.

As in any committed relationship, that's one of those "big things" that needs to be addressed.

I know that I feel that way about other relationships. I was "that girl" in school that wanted to do well just so I wouldn't let my teachers down. I want to go the extra mile so I won't let my family down or even people I work with. It's not like they pressure me into it. In fact, most people will continually tell me that they are proud of me no matter what.

So why do I feel that way with God?

With this being Holy Week, I've obviously been reading a lot of things on the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Kind of a big deal!

While I should be overwhelmed by the love of God, instead, I started to feel like I had to give God a good return on his investment. He invested so much in to me, I don't want to let him down!

Do you think I'm crazy yet? I know that "Christian answer" to all of this, but I had to really seek God on reminding me.

There are two things that I had to remind myself about:

1. It's about being moved to action, not following a command.

John Piper has an excellent devotional for Holy Week. In one section he says, "He loved us to the uttermost. And let us be so moved by this love that it becomes our own."

When we are in a relationship with him, we don't allow his investment to force us in to "debt repayment" (which is an entirely frustrating, futile activity). Instead, we serve him and show love to others because his love and devotion to us changes something in us! It makes us feel like we may burst if we don't show some love!

So what about when we feel ourselves starting to fall under the debt repayment plan? It's time to take another look at the original investment.

2. It's about dwelling in God, not working up to him

Again, this seems pretty basic, but we all need to be reminded about this!

John 15:1-4 says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."

God invites us to dwell in him. He isn't after us to put forth effort into a journey to find him. He's already here.

When I begin feeling myself drained from serving other people, or I don't feel like showing love to other people, I have to take that as a sign that I need to focus on dwelling in God. Just like a branch can't bear fruit by itself, I can't can be filled with love for people or a desire to serve apart from Jesus!