Never underestimate the power in a kind word

Slogging along through life gets really old really fast, especially if you’re stuck in a period of waiting for God to act. You know He’s going to do something, and whatever it is will be amazing and wonderful and life-changing. But until you get there, you’re just stuck. And it’s everything you can do to just keep functioning.

So what happens if someone comes along and notices? What happens when they demonstrate that they care about you or about how hard you’ve been working? how does that make you feel?

For me, it’s energizing. I can have my head down, buried in Word documents, cranking out word count like a fiend, but if someone comes along and mentions how much they enjoy what I’m writing, suddenly it doesn’t feel like work anymore. Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like my feet are stuck in the mud. The mud just becomes an obstacle to overcome, and it feels like it’s worth it.

person-woman-hand-rainyToday’s verses are Acts 4:36-37.

For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.

How would you like to have nickname like that? This guy Joseph, who the apostles nicknamed Barnabus, was such a cool, uplifting guy that they called him The Encourager. Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of reputation? The kind of vibe that just cheered people up wherever you went?

The thing people don’t always understand about encouragers is that they aren’t always obliging. They don’t always tell you what you want to hear. Instead, they tell you what you need to hear, whether it’s fun or not. They are kind people, overall, and they care about you, but they care enough about you not to lie to you or coddle you. They love you enough to tell you the truth.

Sometimes that’s not easy to swallow, as the Apostle Paul eventually discovered in his relationship with Barnabus, but it’s what you need to hear to get you back on track with God. If your perspective is off, you need someone to smack you upside the back of the head to help you get straight again.

Who are the encouragers in your life? Yes, there’s a place for the cuddlers and the caretakers. There’s a time when you need someone to hug you and feed you cookies, but those times should be few and far between. More often than not, we need our encouragers to come along and challenge us to pick up our sword and get back into the fight.

They’ll do it kindly. They’ll speak truth in love to you. Even if it’s not what you want to hear, it’s probably what you need to hear.

So are you feeling down? Are you tired and weary? Yes, rest, if you need to, but if you don’t? Find an encourager. It may not be the happiest conversation you’ve ever had, but I guarantee it will change you–or at least it will change the way you look at your situation. And really, that’s what most of us need anyway.

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Shoveled versus unshoveled at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God saves people who rest in Him

Have you ever sacrificed rest for productivity? You needed to get something done and even though you really needed to recharge before you started it, you plowed ahead anyway? How did that turn out? Were you as productive as you could have been?

I do this more often than I’m comfortable admitting, and even though I usually do accomplish most everything on my to-do list, most of it wouldn’t quality as excellent. And in other situations, especially at work, when I need to revise something over and over again, I get really frustrated. Not at the project, not at the person asking for revisions, but at myself.

Performance-driven perfectionist, remember? If I don’t get something perfect on the first go-round, I can manage, if I can fix it immediately and exceed all expectations. But if it goes through a second round? Or a third round? Or a fourth round? My brain can barely handle it. And if I’m trying to do all of that when I haven’t rested properly, I can pretty much guarantee I’ll hit the irrational level where I convince myself that I’m not any good at what I’m doing.

But when you’re busy and stressed and overwhelmed with things that need to get done, how can you step back and rest? Won’t that make it impossible to accomplish anything?

 

Shoveled versus unshoveled at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Shoveled versus unshoveled at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 30:15.

This is what the Sovereign Lord,
    the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
    and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.

This is the part of faith that I have the most trouble with–not believing but accepting. I always feel like I have to do something. I can’t just sit and wait for God to act. I need to be the one with the initiative. I need to be the one driving the project. I need to be the one making the decisions. But that’s not how God works all the time.

Sometimes He does. Sometimes He wants you to get off your blessed assurance and do something, but not always. And I’m working on paying more attention to those times.

I’ve had the privilege of growing up around so many wonderful Christians, the hardcore dedicated believers who love Christ with everything they are. As a child, I remembered marveling at what God could do through them, and I wanted to be one of those people. And like the crazy person I am, I always take everything one step further. I can’t just meet expectations, I have to exceed them or I’m not happy. I can’t just perform well, I have to perform perfectly or it’s not worth it.

As a result, I run myself ragged. I do everything. I’ve gotten better about it in the past year or so, not saying yes to everything that comes around and actually consulting with God about what I agree to do. And it’s helped. But I still hit those exhausted moments where I really need to rest. And I don’t.

I don’t know where we get the idea that God needs our help. I’m not sure where we got that. Why do we think that God can’t accomplish something unless we run ourselves into the ground? There’s some ridiculous part of me that thinks if I’m enjoying life I’m not working for God hard enough, and that’s a lie. No, this life isn’t permanent for us, and, no, this world isn’t our home. But God put us here, and there are parts of this world and this life that He gave us to enjoy. So why don’t we? Why do we stress ourselves out? Why do we deny ourselves rest?

Our salvation doesn’t come through anything we have done. We aren’t saved by anything we can do. And I’m not just talking spiritually. That’s true in our everyday lives at work and at home and at school. The only choice we need to make is to do follow the Bible, to do what Christ would have done, to live like He did. And God opens the doors for us. We don’t have to wear ourselves out worrying.

Granted, we need to willing to work. We need to be willing to get our hands dirty and go where God tells us and do what He says when He says it. But He already has a plan, and it’s a good plan. So why do we try to take over? The only thing our taking over will accomplish is to confuse things because we can’t see the big picture.

Trying to tackle a huge job when you’re already exhausted will lead to disaster and emotional meltdowns, and that’s not how our lives are supposed to be. God didn’t create us for that.

So, whatever you’re facing today, sit back. Relax. Trust God and rest. Really, truly rest. It’s hard. It’s harder than anything I’ve ever had to do. But God saves people who rest in Him. You’ll find strength in quiet confidence in Him. He’s got a plan, and it’s a good plan. So let Him work it out.

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico, Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Fresh strength for the worn out

Do you ever get tired of everything? When you hit that wall on the edge of burn out where you’re not ready to give up but you’re too worn down to keep trying? Anyone else ever been there? I end up there more frequently than I care to admit, and there are a number of reasons for it. The primary reason is simply that I load myself down with too much to accomplish. I was lauhing at a drama team leader meeting last night that I had made a priority list of things I needed to do, and it turned out to be two pages long.

Sometimes I have those moments where I know everything is fine and even if it’s not fine, I know it will be. But even so, I just get tired. And as busy as my year has been up until this point, it’s fixing to get even busier, and if I’m already exhausted now, I’m kind of nervous about fall, which is when my life turns upside down.

So if any of you out there are where I am this morning–skirting the edge of burn out, trying to stay focused, grasping for the strength you need to accomplish things that used to bring you joy–this is for you. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico, Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico, Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Isaiah 40:12-31 (The Message)

Who has scooped up the ocean
    in his two hands,
    or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger,
Who has put all the earth’s dirt in one of his baskets,
    weighed each mountain and hill?
Who could ever have told God what to do
    or taught him his business?
What expert would he have gone to for advice,
    what school would he attend to learn justice?
What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows,
    showed him how things work?
Why, the nations are but a drop in a bucket,
    a mere smudge on a window.
Watch him sweep up the islands
    like so much dust off the floor!
There aren’t enough trees in Lebanon
    nor enough animals in those vast forests
    to furnish adequate fuel and offerings for his worship.
All the nations add up to simply nothing before him—
    less than nothing is more like it. A minus.

So who even comes close to being like God?
    To whom or what can you compare him?
Some no-god idol? Ridiculous!
    It’s made in a workshop, cast in bronze,
Given a thin veneer of gold,
    and draped with silver filigree.
Or, perhaps someone will select a fine wood—
    olive wood, say—that won’t rot,
 Then hire a woodcarver to make a no-god,
    giving special care to its base so it won’t tip over!

Have you not been paying attention?
    Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
    Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?
God sits high above the round ball of earth.
    The people look like mere ants.
He stretches out the skies like a canvas—
    yes, like a tent canvas to live under.
He ignores what all the princes say and do.
    The rulers of the earth count for nothing.
 Princes and rulers don’t amount to much.
    Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted,
They shrivel when God blows on them.
    Like flecks of chaff, they’re gone with the wind.

“So—who is like me?
    Who holds a candle to me?” says The Holy.
Look at the night skies:
    Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night,
    counts them off, calls each by name
—so magnificent! so powerful!—
    and never overlooks a single one?

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
     or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything?
Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.