Dandelion at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Get excited about what God is doing

When something great happens, don’t you want to tell everyone? I got some great news the other day, but it’s not time to talk about it yet. I will soon, but I have to stay quiet for a little while. And it’s so hard! I just want to scream it at the sky and run around in circles and dance or something–anything–because I’m so excited.

When was the last time you felt that way about something God did in your life?

Dandelion at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dandelion at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Chronicles 16:23-27.

Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
He is to be feared above all gods.
The gods of other nations are mere idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
strength and joy fill his dwelling.

God does awesome things for us every day. Did you realize that? He does things for us that we never asked Him for, things we don’t even know how to ask for. And He does them just because He can.

That sunrise this morning. God did that. The rainbow after the storm the other night. God did that too. God is in the habit of doing miracles every morning, every afternoon, every evening, and most of the time we’re just too busy to pay attention.

Slow down.

The world isn’t going to end if you take a few moments to look around and pay attention to what’s going on around you. Listen to a bird sing or a child laugh. Feel the wind on your face or marvel at the color of the grass (or the wheat, if you’re in Kansas). Smell the lilacs or the roses, whichever floats your boat. And take a moment to recognize who is responsible for all the beauty around us.

And you don’t have to live in the country to enjoy the miracles God does every moment. You realize your cup of coffee is a miracle, right? You can taste it. You can enjoy it. Both of those gifts come from God. And, man, let me tell you I think coffee is a wonderful gift.

There’s nothing better than drinking a cup of hot coffee on a brisk spring morning and watching the sun come up. And that’s something anyone can do, whether you work full time or not. Maybe you work a different shift. If that’s the case, marvel as the sun sets when you’re on the way to work.

The point is that we need to get excited about the things God does for us every day. Maybe they might sound small, but even the smallest miracle is still beyond our capacity. It’s still impossible for us to do. So why don’t we celebrate?

Celebrate the tiny things, the small victories, and tell everyone who did it. Shout it at the sky. God did it! And He did it for me because He loves me!

You want something that will change your perspective on life? Give that a try. After a few days of rejoicing over daisies and lattes, then you’ll start recognizing how many huge things God does for us too.

The old house at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Everybody needs a safe haven

I don’t like admitting that I need help. Admitting that I need help is showing weakness, and I never want people to think I’m weak. Similarly, I don’t like admitting when I need to rest. I’d rather live in denial and push forward until I collapse instead of being proactive and planning for the need to slow down every so often.

That’s probably my pride and my stubbornness showing through.

But realizing that you need to rest doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. No one has super powers. None of us can push forward through life without needing rest or at least a quiet place to recharge. If we try it, we’ll burn out. And once you burn out, lighting the fire again is ten times as difficult.

I’m just coming off one of the busiest weeks of my year, and as I lay awake in bed this morning, my brain was buzzing with everything else I have to do. April is so full, part of me is scared to even look at my calendar. And May is worse. It’s all great, wonderful things. Tremendous opportunities. Fun challenges. Exciting events. But it does take time and energy and emotion, and at the moment, not yet recovered from National Sales Meeting, I can’t imagine being ready for any of it.

The old house at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The old house at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude

A river brings joy to the city of our God,
    the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
    From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos,
    and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
    and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
    See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
    He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.

 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress.

I need to read this Psalm every day. I need to remember everything in this Psalm every moment of every day and maybe twice a day in the stressful times.

Needing a refuge isn’t weak. Everyone needs a refuge, a safe place to go when life gets too crazy.

I’d been away from home since very early Sunday morning, and I walked through my door last night where my roomie was waiting for me. She made dinner, and we watched The Desolation of Smaug and ate pasta. I could relax and not worry about tomorrow and just be.

I’m so fortunate to have a safe place I can go, but not everyone has that. So where do you go when you don’t have a comfortable couch with an awesome roomie?

Maybe it sounds clichéd to talk about resting in God, but that’s what we need to learn to do. That’s what I need to learn to do, especially in those moments when I’ve overworked myself and I don’t have time (or the ability) to run home and hide in my basement with a movie and a cup of tea.

Finding rest in God can be difficult because it requires a change of perspective, and when you’re exhausted anyway, expending the effort to change the way you see the world seems like too much trouble. But the truth is, my safe haven isn’t safe because of my movies and my hot tea and my comfy chair and my awesome roomie. My safe haven is a refuge because it helps me slow down and remember who God is.

That’s the key to resting. It’s not being lazy. It’s not being weak. It’s slowing down enough to regain the right perspective on God, and when you do that, you’ll get the right perspective on everything else.  Remember who God is. Recognize what He’s done for you. Realign your thinking to match His. And you’ll be amazed at how refreshed you feel afterward.

So where is your safe place? Where can you go to slow down and remember who God is? If you don’t have a place like that, you really need to find one. Life won’t slow down, so you have to.

Snowflakes on the sleeve of my coat, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Each of us is but a breath

I got stuck in a snow drift Monday morning on my way to work. I backed my car out of my garage and THUD! I sank into a drift as tall as my knees and twice as wide as my 2012 Malibu. Backing out in the pitch black dark of morning is always an adventure, but getting stuck in the snow isn’t a new experience for me. With a little creative maneuvering and the deactivation of the car’s traction control, I escaped my snowy prison and got on the road.

But it didn’t take me long to realize that something wasn’t quite right. I got up to 40 miles per hour, and the steering wheel began to wobble. And what can you do in that situation? Well, a smart person would probably stop. But I decided to go a little faster and see if it went away. I pushed it up to 50, and–no. The wibble-wobble didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse.

To make a long story short, I pretty much decided that it had to be snow packed somewhere, and on the advice of my dad, I chose to go ahead and come into town for work. But the requirement was that I couldn’t drive over 50. That was the kicker. Driving 45 miles one way to work isn’t a very big deal when you can go 70 mph (*cough-cough-75-cough-cough*), but that same distance at a limit of 50? With crazy drivers zooming past you? PLUS, it was going to take me forever to get into work, which meant I would be later than I normally like to be.

If the day continued as it had started, it was going to be a horrible Monday.

But I pushed forward, with some encouraging words from my mom, and drove into Wichita with my hazard lights on, keeping my speed around 50 mph, wheels wobbling all the way. For the first ten minutes, I was stressed out and frustrated and irritated and grouchy. What a way to start my first full week in 2014! But then, I reminded myself that everything happens for a reason, and I turned on some praise music and enjoyed my extra-long drive into Wichita.

And guess what? No, I was still late. To make it to work on time after my fiasco of a morning would have required a TARDIS (wibbley-wobbley, timey-whimey?). But the morning drive did fly faster than I expected it to, and I guess that’s what made me think today about how fast time goes. I know I’ve posted about it before, but time really does go fast. Life really is short.

Snowflakes on the sleeve of my coat, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Snowflakes on the sleeve of my coat, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 39:5.

You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.

The Psalmist understood how short life is. I can’t remember if this was David or not. It probably was, considering how many Psalms he wrote. But whoever wrote it captured the concept of how fast time goes in beautiful words: “at best, each of us is but a breath.”

A breath. A vapor, like it says in James. A wisp of fog, a puff of smoke, here for a little while and then it’s gone. Compared to eternity, our 70, 80, 90, 100 years on Earth are nothing. Less than nothing. No more substantial than a cloud brushing the summit of Pike’s Peak.

So what does it matter if your schedule falls apart? What does it matter that you need to spend another 15 minutes getting to work when you hadn’t planned on it? Granted, if you’re an hourly employee, that’s different. If you have a responsibility to be on time, then be on time, but at the end of the day, life happens. And the more upset you get about it, the less likely you are to appreciate the time you still have.

Be responsible, of course, but be sensible. Recognize truly how short life is, and be thankful for the time you have. This world isn’t our home, no, but it’s where we live now. God put us here for a reason, and He allows things into our lives for a reason. We may never know why, but He does. That’s what matters.

So whatever goes wrong in your life today, don’t freak out. Don’t get frustrated. Remember your life is just a breath. Make the most of what you have, and when things don’t go the way you want, just chill. Try to see the bright side. If you can’t find something good to say about God, you’re not paying close enough attention.

Serenity keychain turned into an ornament, Haven, KS

Stop crying and party

There’s no time of year like Christmas. No other season is as busy, as crazy, as absurd, and as insane. Everyone’s running around doing something, whether it’s cooking or baking, shopping or wrapping presents, travelling or working. And then there’s the requisite Christmas Eve rehearsals at church and the million and one social events. Before you know it, your entire calendar for December is stuffed full, and you don’t have a single moment to spare.

I’m speaking from experience here. This always happens to me. And I always swear I’m going to slow down some day, but I never seem to figure out how. So before today gets away from me, I just want to take a moment and stop.

Serenity keychain turned into an ornament, Haven, KS

Serenity keychain turned into an ornament, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Nehemiah 8:10.

And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

The ornament pictured in this photo isn’t an ornament. It’s a key chain, but I’m hard on key chains. And it broke. So I stuck it on a wire hanger and hung it on my handmade Christmas tree. For those of you who aren’t science fiction nerds like me, this is Serenity a space ship from Joss Whedon’s amazing television series Firefly. It has nothing to do with Christmas. Nothing at all. But it made me smile.

I think that’s something people need to do more of, especially in the Christmas season. Smiling is good for your health, and it’s good for the health of other people around you.

The book of Nehemiah is a really interesting story because much of it is told in narrative format, which is unusual for the Bible. Nehemiah is in charge of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and this particular verse comes from a moment when the Law was read out loud to the people and they understood it. They were all so overwhelmed with being able to understand the words of the Law, they wept. And that’s why Nehemiah was telling them to stop crying and go party.

Honestly, I think that’s news American Christians need to hear. Our country is in a dangerous place right now, and there’s trouble everywhere you look. Name a part of American society, and I bet you can find something wrong with it. We’re a mess. And I know lots of people who are actively engaging in trying to right the wrongs in our country, and I have the highest respect for them. But sometimes I wonder if we all just take ourselves too seriously.

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of this is serious stuff, and it deserves to be taken seriously. But all the time? Do we have to focus on everything that’s wrong in our world constantly?

Come on, Christians. Lighten up. Rejoice in your salvation. That’s what Christmas is about. It’s a time for us to celebrate and remember that our Savior came for us so we could have life! And not just life–abundant life. A rich life. A life full of joy and hope and peace and wonderful experiences.

It’s easy to get down about what’s happening in our world, and it’s even easier to get down about all the things that are wrong in America. But take a moment and try to focus on something that’s going right, even if it’s just the relationship between you and God. If that’s all you have to celebrate, you still have a huge reason to rejoice. Because you’re right with God. Through Christ, you’ve been reconciled to God, and you’ll never be alone. And if that isn’t worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.

Maybe the world is a mess and maybe America is falling apart, but that doesn’t mean we have to focus on that this Christmas season. Instead, focus on what God has done in your life today. The joy you find in Him will strengthen you so that you can face any challenge.

So stop crying, Christians, and let’s party. We have a lot to celebrate.

The Pink House - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Rest doesn’t equal indolence

I believe in putting my whole heart and soul into everything I do. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well; that’s what I believe. Life is too short to do things half heartedly. So whether I’m working at my job or doing ministry of some kind, I am always doing it 110%.

But I’ll be the first to tell you that people weren’t designed to run at that kind of pace for an extended period of time with no rest. And that’s where I have been for the last six weeks. Maybe even longer than that. Probably since January.

I’m exhausted. And run down. And worn out. But even though I recognize that I need rest, there’s still some part of me that feels guilty for doing it.

The Pink House - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

The Pink House – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Mark 6:31.

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.

It’s difficult to remember sometimes that Jesus rested too. And no one believed in ministry more than Jesus did.

Resting is necessary. It’s not being lazy.

That’s what I have to convince myself more often than anything else: that taking a break doesn’t make me lazy. It just makes me human.

In any case, it’s important to remember that you can’t make it through life with your nose to the grindstone constantly. I mean, you can try. But if you deny yourself the rest you need on a regular basis, you’ll lose your perspective.

If you bury yourself in your work, whether it’s job or ministry, pretty soon you’ll be so buried that you can’t dig yourself out. And by then, your work or your ministry will be all that matters to you anyway.

And, yes, it’s important to care about your job. And it’s important to care about your ministry. But not at the expense of your relationship with God.

Even Jesus recognized that He needed a break to reset His relationship with His Father. And He knew that His disciples needed a chance to breathe, where He could spend time with them and encourage them.

So that’s what I’m doing this weekend. I’m resting. I have my camera. I have three of my favorite people in the world in one of the most beautiful places on earth. And I have my netbook with a novel I’m working on (which I may or may not work on).

But beyond all of those wonderful things, I’m being quiet. I’m slowing down. And I’m listening. Because I have been so busy for so long that I’ve not taken the time to listen to the things that God is trying to tell me. And I’m excited for what He has to say.

If you are like me and are so overwhelmed with life and work and ministry, do yourself a favor. Take a break. Step back. Do something else for a weekend, and listen to what God is telling you.

You might be surprised at what you hear.