It’s a new year this week. Full of the sparkle and shine of possibility. It’s an empty book just waiting to be filled and …I love that.
Many years I’ve pondered slow and deep and filled pages and pages of my journal with reflections and intentions and plans.
This year…I’m not. At least not yet. I am a firm believer that the whole of January is the beginning of the new year and I have that entire month to reflect and plan. So I still have time to change my mind.
But this year, there’s just one thing that keeps resurfacing for me as I look ahead. And behind. A carryover, perhaps, of all I’ve pondered and prayed these last few months.
I want to ask God for wisdom. More. More wisdom. More often. I want to ask Him to guide my decisions. Big and small. I want to ask what He desires me to do. How I should be spend the precious hours He’s given me? Where should I invest energy and attention?
I don’t expect to get a message from heaven each time. Or a miraculous word of guidance.
But I do except to be guided subtly and gently. I expect to be moved, because I move. Not God. I expect my heart and mind to move into alignment with God. I don’t expect words from heaven, but I expect Him to change me as I seek His heart. And as He brings me closer to His heart, I expect my decisions, large and small, to shift.
And I suspect, that on occasion, a clear answer might come.
I’ve spent the tail end of this year completely overwhelmed by everything there is to do. And I can’t at all see how I will accomplish it’s scope and breadth. I can’t figure out how to figure out what to prioritize and what to let go of.
And yet, this stubborn heart is learning slowly. The only way to truly grow is to ask for help. And who better to ask than the God who created the universe, and me?
So that’s it. That’s my one goal. …for now. To ask God for wisdom, for guidance, for help more often. For the small things, not just the big. And to ask that He bring my heart closer to His in the process.
How can I
Morning after morning
Wrap myself in
All this glory
And not open my
Mouth to praise?
by Alesha Sinks
So often I find myself overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. And yet, so often I fail to step forward into the intended result of awe and wonder…worship.
Isn’t that the purpose of creation?
”The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
Psalm 19:1 (NIV)
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Romans 1:20 (NIV)
In the Psalms, there are examples upon examples of the writer praising God, inspired by and in awe of the glory of God’s creation.
“How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”
“For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;”
Yet so many mornings I hurry, feet pounding across weather pavement, stechting out to reach the sunrise. And when I get there, when I reach the oceans edge with the early light rippling across the waves, when I stand still and breathless at the beauty in front of me, I forget to do the very thing for which my soul was made.
I forget to do the very thing for which my soul was made.
I forget to take my awe of creation and let it lead me into awe of the Creator.
And that’s true of a little million moments throughout my days.
watching pure joy radiate from my son’s face
when that one shaft of light slips through the living room blinds
the first glorious sip of coffee
a peaceful moment, book in hand
a friend reaching out in love and encouragement
that one song playing right, exactly when I needed to hear it
a cool breeze stirring through the hot evening air, summoning us to rest
How often do these moements slip through my grasp, our grasp, awakening joy and peace and hope and beauty, but failing to turn our hearts in gratitude toward their Giver.
Practicing awareness in the moment. Practicing giving a practical, out-loud or a quiet, whispered-in-my-heart “thank you God” when I am surprised by joy. Praciticing reflection on blessings at the end of the day or the week or the month and practicing offering my thanks to God then. Practicing to make a seamless turn from “Wow, how beautiful” into “God, You are so beautiful”.
I’m practicing to make a seamless turn from “Wow, how beautiful” into “God, You are so beautiful”.
Will you practice with me? Will you join me in allowing the beauty around us to not just catch our eyes or our hearts, but to turn our hearts toward God?
My prayer for us today is…
Let the beauty we encounter daily lead us to worship.
Over and over in the Bible we are told to “bear fruit” and that if we stay close to Jesus, if we have the Holy Spirit working in us, He will produce ”fruit” in us.
But only recently did I really think deeply about what this fruit really is.
I think it’s our natural instinct to think that fruit is the flashy stuff.
The amount of time you’ve spent serving at church the biblical degrees you can display on your wall the number of people you’ve led to Jesus the books you’ve written about spiritual living the Bible studies and small groups you’ve led the number of homeless people you’ve given food to the outreach events you’ve put on the number of children you’ve raised to love Jesus the amount of money you’ve given but…
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galations 5:22-23
These are wonderful things, and they are often the evidence of fruit, but they are not the fruit.
It sounds so strange to say, but I am the fruit. My changed life. My heart and mind becoming more like Jesus. I am the fruit of a spirit filled life.
The fruit is the power of God transforming me from sinner into saint.
The fruit that I am called to bear is my own self becoming more like Jesus as I abide in Him.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
If I think that living a fruitful life looks like adding up accomplishments and accolades, then my life will be focused on doing things for God, and not seeking God Himself.
If I think that pleasing God and producing fruit to His glory means adding up a large number of lives I’ve impacted, then I’m forgetting that I cannot change people’s hearts and lives. Only God can do that.
If I think that the fruit I am called bear is the serving I do, then I will wear myself out doing things for other people and becoming prideful in all that I accomplish.
And we can swing so easily between these two wrong extremes: doing all the things because we think that how much we do and the effectiveness of our doing are the fruit, and doing nothing because we don’t want to risk doing something out of a wrong heart or attitude.
Our center, the place we must always swing back to, is Jesus.
When I find my heart filling with pride or anxiety over the things I’m working to accomplish, I must learn to swing back to the center of Jesus, serving Him because I love Him. Because He first loved me.
When I find myself afraid to do anything, afraid that I am working for the wrong reasons, I must swing back to the center of Jesus, trusting that He can wash the sinful attitudes from my heart. Trusting that He has prepared good works for me to walk in them and that He can produce fruit in me through them.
We will always find our hearts and attitudes being challenged, needing to change. Needing to recenter on Jesus. But that is the whole point. As we are changed more and more into the image of Christ, we should be doing more and more for God because we are falling deeper in love with Him. But as we do and give and serve and reach out, we must remember that we aren’t responsible for the results of those things. God is.
I am the fruit that God wants to produce through me. I have good works prepared in advance that God has set out for me.
I am going to keep doing for God and with God, but I’m praying that I learn more and more to leave the results and the glory to God, remembering that those things are not the fruit. I am.
It was the middle of a worship night and my mind was running crazy down the path of some anxious scenario. I wanted to be at this worship night. I wanted to be all in worshipping Jesus. I wanted to be distraction and worry free, but here I was, chasing anxiety again.
For a moment, I let my mind follow the anxious path. I could feel body tensing and tears springing to my eyes. And the words I’ve told myself so many times floated through my head…
”It’s good to think through this, because now, if the worst does happen, I will be prepared to deal with it.”
But in that instant it struck me: these words I’d so often repeated to myself were not wisdom but lies.
My mind spun as this truth sank in. Finally, as the spinning calmed and my thoughts collected themselves, I breathed deep.
I knew in that moment I had a choice.
Closed eyes. Deep breath. Whispered prayers. And then I lifted my head with this resolve.
I will not move on in life persistently imagining and preparing myself for the worst case scenario. Because there is no need.
In Jesus I already have everything I need for life and godliness. I am already equipped to deal with any trial God brings my way, because Jesus is in me.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” 2 Peter 1:3
I do not need to prepare for the worst case scenario, because I already am prepared in Jesus…because I have Jesus living and active in me.
All this running of scenarios and what-ifs in my mind wasn’t just “helpful planning” or even “harmless anxiety”. It was sin. It was indulging in the lie that I am somehow in control of my own life and emotions in such a way that were something bad to happen to me or someone I love, I wouldn’t need help.
I believed that I would be okay because I was prepared enough and that all this preparation would make me strong enough to handle whatever life could throw at me.
But preparation doesn’t make me strong. Jesus makes me strong because Jesus is strong in me.
If I truly believe that Jesus was already strong on my behalf when He went to the cross, then surely I can believe that He will be strong enough in me throughout every day of this life.
As the truth grew stronger inside me, I slowly refocused my heart on worship…bowing my heart and head before my Maker in joy and praise.
But our Enemy doesn’t give up easily. Anxious thoughts came storming into my mind many other times throughout the night. But this time, I had another weapon with which to battle. Another truth with which to take out the lies.