Category Archives for "Faith"

3 Practical Ways to Pray for the Persecuted and the Lost (Plus A Free Prayer Card)

How can we remember to pray for believers in faraway places, and how can we remember to pray for those who have yet to believe? Practical ideas here to do with the kids. Vibrant Homeschooling

This guest post is written by Bonnie Rose of WriteBonnieRose.com.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23 NIV). 

John 17 is one of my favorite parts of the Easter story. The privilege of listening to Jesus pray overwhelms me. And to think He prayed for me! But it also makes me think about the world, both for “those who will believe…that all of them may be one” and the world that our unity is to be a witness to.

How can we remember to pray for believers in faraway places, and how can we remember to pray for those who have yet to believe? There are a number of ways. One way is through email. How many of us check our email at least once (or twice or a dozen times) a day?

  • You can sign up with the U.S. Center for World Missions to receive daily prayer reminders. Each one focuses on a different group of people in the world who need to hear of Jesus’ love, many for the first time.
  • You can also adopt a Bibleless people group through prayer by signing up at Wycliffe.org. They will assign you a people group to pray regularly for who do not yet have the Scriptures in their heart language, the language they understand and relate to best.
  • The Joshua Project will send you an email every day (or only on days you select) that gives you a glimpse into the world of just one of the more than 4,000 unreached people groups around the world. According to their website, more than two billion people are living and dying right now without ever having heard of Jesus or having the chance to believe in Him. That’s almost a third of the world’s population. Every one of them needs our prayers.

You can print prayer cards from Joshua Project that include photos and statistics of thousands of unreached people. You can select by country, by religion, by people cluster, and more. You can also print prayer calendars to help you and your family remember to pray.

Or, if you and your children would enjoy personalizing some prayer cards, you can print the black and white prayer cards below. Each card has a prayer based on John 17 as well as room for you to write the name of a nation you wish to remember to pray for.

How can we remember to pray for believers in faraway places, and how can we remember to pray for those who have yet to believe? Practical ideas here to do with the kids. Vibrant Homeschooling

My prayer as we approach this Easter is that God will help me pray more often and more earnestly for those who need Him. Will you join me?

Download your Printable Daily Prayer Cards for the Persecuted and Lost

Day 6: Counting Down to Advent with 25 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

Great list of how our family incorporates Random Acts of Kindness with our Christmas and Advent traditions. Day 6 of 12 Days of Christmas Teachable Moments

 

This post is Day 6 of Vibrant Homeschooling’s “12 Days of Christmas Teachable Moments” series. 

Click here to access previous posts in the series.

Christmas is my favorite time of year.  Everyone is in a happy mood not to mention the opportunities to talk about Jesus are everywhere which makes sharing the Gospel extraordinarily easy.

With that in mind,  I like to use this time of year to teach my children how to serve others while sharing the Gospel by doing random acts of Christmas kindness.  Why this time of year?  People are simply more receptive to it.  I’m trying to teach my  children the hows and whys so I want them to be successful in their attempts.  This, in turn, will make them more willing to do it as a daily habit throughout the rest of the year.

As part of my Christmas decorations, I make a set of 25 envelopes.  Depending on when I make them is how fancy they look.  Some years, I paint on them then put the countdown numbers.  If I happen to get an early start then I’ll even get some pretty decorative envelopes. Oops, I forgot means that it’s just envelopes with numbers on them.  There is no right or wrong way here.  Don’t get so caught up in the envelopes that you forget why you are making them.  You are counting down to the birth of our Lord and Savior.  One of the holiest days of the year!

Acts 20:35

In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Great list of how our family incorporates Random Acts of Kindness with our Christmas and Advent traditions. Day 6 of 12 Days of Christmas Teachable Moments by Vibrant Homeschooling

Each envelope gets a slip of paper with a random act of kindness printed in it.

Great list of how our family incorporates Random Acts of Kindness with our Christmas and Advent traditions. Day 6 of 12 Days of Christmas Teachable Moments by Vibrant Homeschooling

These are all designed to teach the children to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth.  To love others because He first loved us.  To do what we can to advance the Kingdom.

Great list of how our family incorporates Random Acts of Kindness with our Christmas and Advent traditions. Day 6 of 12 Days of Christmas Teachable Moments by Vibrant Homeschooling

These acts can be simple or advanced.  I try to look at the calendar while I am putting the slips in the envelopes.  The easy acts go in days that I know we are super busy.  This guarantees that we will get it done regardless of our activities.  Anything we need to complete it goes in the envelope too.

Great list of how our family incorporates Random Acts of Kindness with our Christmas and Advent traditions. Day 6 of 12 Days of Christmas Teachable Moments by Vibrant Homeschooling

Don’t get me wrong. This is a non-negotiable activity for our family.  We simply open the envelopes at breakfast to see what our activity is for that day.  Then we brainstorm ways to make it happen.  Finally, we decide if we are going to be anonymous or take credit for our actions.  Regardless of what we decide, we always leave a Gospel message.

A great place to get a leave-behind tag to go along with all these is Simply Living  For Him. Take a look at her beautiful “Christmas Acts of Kindness” tags.

kindnesstags2--WEB

 

Love her version because it talks about Jesus.  Since we are doing all this for Him, we want to be sure to give Him the Glory.

Great list of how our family incorporates Random Acts of Kindness with our Christmas and Advent traditions. Day 6 of 12 Days of Christmas Teachable Moments by Vibrant Homeschooling

Our activities:

  1. Distribute blessing bag meals for the homeless.
  2. Host an annual cookie decorating party for service personnel.
  3. Ring the bell for the Salvation Army.
  4. Pay for the person behind you in line at the drive thru.
  5. Set up a free wrapping table outside a major store for a few hours.
  6. Go caroling at a nursing home.
  7. Do a mobile food drive for a local food pantry.  Simply announce that you are picking up donations if people want to leave them on their porch then drive around to pick them up.  Deliver to the food pantry.
  8. Hand out words of encouragement at a local mall while people are bustling about.
  9. School supplies teacher gift bags dropped off at our local elementary school.
  10. Tape dollars to the back of toys in the dollar store.
  11. Give baggies of soap and quarters to people at the laundromat.
  12. Make a freezer meal gift basket.
  13. Pass out candy canes to people we meet with the legend of the candy cane attached.
  14. Bring hot chocolate to the Bell Ringers on a really cold day.
  15. Collect blankets to deliver to the homeless on a cold night.
  16. Put quarters in the bubble gum machines.
  17. Host single friends for dinner then send them home with the leftovers.
  18. Hand out Starbucks cards to various people walking in.
  19. Walk through Publix randomly handing customers coupons for the items in their cart or for $ off their total.
  20. Hiding coupons amongst the items they were for.
  21. Buying an entire Thanksgiving meal then randomly picking someone in the parking lot to give it to
  22. Collect rocks. Paint hearts or crosses on them.  Put them randomly on sidewalks where people will find them.  We like to put John 3: 16 on there too if we can fit it.
  23. Leave encouraging notes in random books at the library.
  24. Hang out at a store or mall and people watch. Catch someone doing a good deed then give them a thank you note with a $5 Target card inside.
  25. Pick 5 people and anonymously mail them their favorite thing.

That’s it! Enjoy doing these with your family or come up with your own ways to spread Christmas kindness and God’s love.

 

Waiting, Exhaustion (and Hope)

waiting, exhaustion and hope--socialWriting has not come easy lately. I think it’s because my mind has been continually processing and analyzing data. And all other non-essential tasks have slowed to the speed of pouring molasses on a winter’s day.

You see, our house is for sale. If you’ve ever been blessed (ahem) enough to endure this phenomenon, then you know the torture of waiting. Waiting for your dream house to come on the market. Waiting for someone to think of your house as their dream house and to place an offer.

You also understand exhaustion.

The utter exhaustion of keeping a house immaculate and in model-perfect condition. You’ve spent your precious weekend time running wiping your bathroom counters, vacuuming your floors and fluffing your pillows (even though you’d just done it all the day before).

You’ve tried the “fresh-baked cookies” smell for a showing and your stereo is permanently set on the “Norah Jones” Pandora station.

You’ve swept piles of dirty laundry into the back of your minivan because you had a showing in the middle of laundry day.

You’ve walked around your neighborhood again and again and again because (even after 45 minutes) you saw that the realtor and buyers were still looking through every nook and cranny of your house.

You’ve prayed before and after each showing, begging and pleading God to “please, let this be the one.”

And then of course you need to find that dream house… which comes with its own set of trials.

In short, your entire life has been taken over by the buying and selling of houses.

The worst part of the whole process is that you are utterly and completely not in control. There’s nothing you can do to hurry it along (“One showing in a 9 days? That’s it?!”) or to slow it down (“What?! The buyers want a 15-day escrow?!”).

The last nine weeks have been exhausting for me. Of course cleaning my house some 25 times has contributed to my physical fatigue. But it’s the mental tiredness… that’s what’s been killing me.

It was worse at the beginning. Much, much worse. Although our realtor warned us that the market had cooled off since the busy summer season, I still thought that our house—with its recently planted cottage garden in the front—would make our home an easy sell.

During our first few weeks on the market, our family fumbled through the process of cleaning (and re-cleaning) our house. Not yet finding out groove (“you sweep the backyard; I’ll clean the bathroom counters”) the kids groaned, we hurried around frantically (and prayed even more furiously) that our home would sell quick. It was a major ordeal each time, and each time we consoled ourselves that “this wouldn’t last long.”

While in the grand scheme of things that may be true, it sure feels like an eternity.

Three days into the process I remember complaining to my husband about how much I hated it, and how ready I was to be done with the whole mess. Three days in!

I quickly realized that transformation was happening, and it wasn’t just a transition to a new home. A lesson was about to be learned, and I realized that I probably wasn’t going to like it.

Change, hard work and perseverance never ever come easy. Especially when you’re not in control of how long these character refining tasks must be endured.

But yet, they are the impetus to greatness. They can be embraced and welcomed as the (albeit painful) stepping stones to growth; or they can be ignored because the refining is too challenging and difficult to endure. To choose or to deny the refining: this defines our future path and our overall resilience to all that life throws at us.

In life, some of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn have been that of patience and trust. And in this situation, as the days and weeks have ticked by, I’ve noted when I’ve embraced and when I’ve ignored the challenge.

Recently, I’ve realized that these lessons in waiting can be equated to the mini trials on my morning runs.

I run not because I was born with long athletic legs meant for long strides. I run for the mental time alone, for the endorphins and so that I can eat frozen yogurt and cheesecake from time to time.

But mainly I run because I know it will be a challenge.  It’s wonderful to start off the day by setting a running goal for myself and pushing through to the end because it reminds me that yes, I can get through tough things. It gives me hope that if I can conquer that hill or run a certain distance then I can not only endure but triumph through the relentless, ongoing battles of motherhood and of life overall.

I have slacked off in the running area in the past few months, but as the house waiting game presses in, I have forced myself to lace up my Nikes and get back out there, if for nothing else but to give myself small little victories in endurance, and to prove to myself that I can endure these big ones too.

Enduring to a set ending point is one thing, but plodding on when you don’t know how curvy or long the road is…? That can be pure torture. That kind of endurance takes strong lungs and a deep sense of faith.

Several years ago as a brand-new Christian, I remember telling a mentor of mine, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do! Everything is so up in the air.” My friend politely responded, “Alicia, life is ‘up in the air!’ No matter how much control we think we have, we truly don’t know what will happen next, even if things look like they will perfectly line up.”

I have spent my life trying to learn this concept! I have mistakenly tried to predict (and thereby falsely control) every aspect of my life, as if I knew what would happen next (or, worse, what should happen next). And yet, God has been so gracious to give me situation after situation to allow me the opportunity to change my thinking and release my imagined hold on the future.

About three weeks ago I finally realized this about the house situation. And instead of fighting the needed change like a screaming child about to get a shot, I decided to relax, release my need for control and to fall back into His arms.

I see this same fighting-then-embracing concept to be true each time I run too. The first five to ten minutes are the worst as I inwardly complain about how much I my legs hurt, how I’m bored, how I’d rather be doing something else… blah, blah, blah. But slowly that stage passes as I fight through the pain, get into the music blasting through my earbuds, and see myself making progress on my running course. Tiny victories (“I ran up that entire hill without stopping!”) encourage me onto the next little running challenge, and together they give me the stamina to get all the way back home.

Looking back on this buying/selling journey, I can see how waiting has deepened my patient endurance (Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-3) and how little victories along the way (“Wow boys—you can clean up the entire backyard by yourselves now!”) have brought encouragement and hope during this holding pattern.

And now today, after nine weeks of waiting, we got an offer on our house.  This means that now we can put an offer in on our dream home, which also took us about nine weeks to decide upon (anyone else note the irony and evidences of providence here?).

Ahem. OK God, so maybe you do have a plan.

I am hoping that it all comes through and that our days of frantic, last-minute-house-cleanings are over. I’m ready to move on through the process (although I’m still daunted by the task of packing up and moving six people, two dogs, two tankfuls of fish to a new address). Of course the carrot for that enormous task is the thrilling promise of a beautiful new home in a more rural area with more room for my kids to roam.

The greatest gift, however, has been the trust that I have gained in my savior (and the patient endurance to, once again, wait on His promises). These lessons are long curvy roads with tons of speed bumps and rough paths, but the view from the top is priceless and worth every cent.

There’s no quick path to the higher, beautiful plains of the soul’s richest treasures, but embracing the refining brings hope, purpose and a deep personal confidence in the one who holds the future.

Our kids need to learn to get along!!! We've declared

Love and Peace (or Else): When Kids Argue and Fight

 Our kids need to learn to get along!!! We've declared "Love and Peace (Or Else)" [VibrantHomeschooling.com]Dear Lord, we are at a loss.

My husband and I don’t know how to get our kids to love each other.

We pray regularly for peace and continually ask for help in controlling anger and frustration in our home.

We share numerous examples with our kids of how real love acts (and doesn’t act), by looking at historical figures, biblical characters, family members, etc.

We ask others for advice and read many books on the subject.

We regularly remove privileges and institute consequences when the kids are unkind, demonstrating that their bad actions can negatively affect their lives.

We daily encourage our kids to “speak kindly to each other,”; to “have grace and patience with each other’s faults”; to “find ways to serve one another” and to “model servanthood by letting the other person go first.”

We are not perfect people, but our marriage (and interactions with each other) demonstrate these qualities. 

And yet, here we are again, about to face another “family talk” on getting along and loving each other.

Why can’t we figure this out?

That was my desperate prayer a few days ago after I’d finally reached a tipping point with all the bickering around here.

Is it an impossibility to think that our kids can get along, even with their differences in temperament, age, gender and interests?

Or should we just relegate “real love” to one of those lofty (but clearly unattainable) wall posters phrases, and just accept that brothers and sisters have always fought and will always do so?http://yourvibrantfamily.com/wp-admin/import.phpOur kids need to learn to get along!!! We've declared "Love and Peace (Or Else)" [VibrantHomeschooling.com]

Boy, there are days when that seems like the best option. In those moments when they’re at each other’s throats, my battle-weary heart wants to tell them to give up because they’ll never get along.

At very least, there are times I want them to figure it out (in another room) so I don’t have to hear it because I am tired of playing referee with phrases like:  “Try to see it her way.” “How can you love and serve him right now?” “Is this issue worth hurting your relationship?” and of course, “Please just get along!!!”

And yes, I do believe that kids need to figure it out themselves sometimes and we parents can’t always solve all their problems. However, there’s a fine line between letting them just duke it out and knowing when they need more teaching, modeling and instruction.

A Training Ground for Conflict Management

We believe that the home is the training ground for life. It is a safe place to learn and practice real world skills.

And part of those basic life skills is learning how to get along with those who are different from us.

Think of how it could change our children’s future destinies if they simply learned and practiced healthy conflict management skills from an early age! Relationships, marriage, business: if you’ve been in these situations for more than five minutes you know how critical it is to learn to get along with those who are different from you. What kind of life-long advantage would it give our kids? A HUGE one.

And yet, there’s no college course… no AP class that our kids can take to learn this. If they’re lucky, they pick up the skills at some work-sponsored seminar or maybe read a book about conflict in marriage.

But what if it’s too late then? What if irreparable damage has already been done? What about all those years (and those relationships) that have been spoiled up to that point because the tools simply weren’t there?

What if God’s design for sibling rivalry is to be an opportunity to learn (and practice) these powerful skills right now, in childhood, within the healthy boundaries of loving family relationships?

This was our mindset when we sat down with our kids at the family meeting a few days ago.

The Meeting (and the Questions)

At the meeting, we shared (once again) the reasons above why conflict resolution skills are critical for life.

We knew they’d heard this before.

They were good kids who (usually) tried their best. They weren’t inherently evil beings who were out to get each other. They were selfish sinners, just like us, who by their nature make mistakes and sometimes just don’t want to do (or don’t know how to do) the right thing.

They, like us, were just figuring this all out.

So first we offered them grace and forgiveness for their mistakes, and we asked them to apologize to one another. Then we simply stated: what practical tools or methods do you need to make it possible to live in harmony? Are there questions you need answered?

Their responses were astute, telling (and universal for most conflicts). They asked us things like: “How do you solve a problem when you both want your own way?” and “How do you control your anger when you’re really mad at someone?”

Believing that the Bible is the answer book for the big questions of life, we pledged to spend time as a family looking through scripture for these answers.

So, that’s what we’ve done the past few nights after dinner. No agendas, no outlines in mind of where to go or what to teach. Taking one question a night, we’ve simply asked God to show us verses that would give us practical insight. And honestly, it’s been amazing what we’ve discovered.

The Great Experiment (and Hopefully, the Great Change)

We start by searching together for verses that give meaningful, tangible solutions to the question (a concordance has been helpful). Once we’ve discovered a passage or two, we write down the key phrases or words from the passage on a small whiteboard (the kids take notes).

Next we write down a visual that comes to mind to explain the point. For example, last night we answered, “How do you get along with someone who bugs you?” Our main teaching was from Colossians 3:12-15:

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.

We felt that the two most applicable phrases were “make allowance for each other’s faults” and “above all, clothe yourselves in love.” So we came up with two visuals.Our kids need to learn to get along!!! We've declared "Love and Peace (Or Else)" [VibrantHomeschooling.com]

“Make allowance” reminded me of the “two-second rule” that we’re told about in Driver’s Education classes (remember that? Keep at least a two-second distance from the car in front of you?). The reasons for this when driving are clear: if we leave extra space between cars, then we won’t cause an accident if the car in front was to stop suddenly.

But what if we thought of relationships in the same way, especially relationships with those who are different from us? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that there may be some potential “rear-end collisions”? So, what if we anticipated those and left some breathing room for people to be different? If we became extra sensitive around people’s hot buttons (or if we anticipated their “strange” responses in certain situations), wouldn’t we be less shocked by them and thus have less conflict?

The visual for “above all, clothe yourselves in love” was simply a stick figure of a person “wearing” a shirt with “love” on it. This was to remind us that we can choose to put on or take off an attitude of love towards someone, just like we take on or off our clothing.

So now, we have two practical visuals that we reference with the kids when this situation occurs. We’ve written them (along with the scriptures) on a whiteboard in our kitchen so that we can glance at them often (you know, just in case we forget).

As the days have progressed, we’ve had a few opportunities to practice using our new tools (go figure, in a house full of imperfect people). And along with basic conflict resolution patterns we’ve always talked about (confession, asking for/receiving forgiveness, and searching for a reasonable solution), they seem to be working well.

Two of our children have an especially tumultuous relationship, and we knew they needed a more drastic intervention in order to see changes. So, we’ve asked them to spend their free time together for the rest of the week. We also did some bed switch-a-roo and now these two are sharing bunk beds, at least for the next several weeks, in order for them to work out their differences.

After only one night in the same room, we were shocked to hear that their relationship was already improving.

“I just think I need to get to know her better,” one of the new roommates said the following morning.

“Yes, you really do,” I said, after I picked my jaw up off the floor.

So the experiment continues. I’m sure the tools will be constant use. And we probably haven’t had the last family meeting on this topic.

But we’re praying that it will get better. That love, peace (and civility) will reign most days.

And more importantly, we’re praying they can practice the basics here in our home so they’ll be equipped to handle adult-size conflict in a few short years.

How do you and your family handle conflict?

Thirsty. Dry. And Making My Own Water.

I have been feeling out of sorts the last few days. Like I’m searching for something I need, but I can’t figure out what it is.Thirsty. Dry. And Making My Own Water

It’s a deep ache inside me, causing a distemper to my days and a tinge of sharpness in my responses to those around me. It’s as if I have a heightened sensitivity, and all the noise and general busy-ness of children has me on edge. My husband has been working a ton lately, we’re back in school and our house is on the market. So I guess I could chalk it up to those things.

But I’m not sure that’s the root of the issue.

“I need some down time… some time to myself this afternoon,” I say, as I encourage the kids to play independently for a few hours while the baby naps.

And so here I sit, outside in “my spot.” I’m alone and yet still not feeling better. Grrr!! Honestly, I don’t know what to do with myself.

Like a person who unhappy with the seemingly endless options at an all-you-can-eat-buffet, I sit here searching, going through the list in my head of things to “make me feel better.”

But I determine that I’m yearning for something that satisfies so much deeper than just cookies, a new outfit or an especially clean corner of the house.

There’s a restlessness deep in my soul. A deep, gut-wrenching frustration in my heart.  A sense of “I’m-working-as-hard-as-I-can-but-it’s-still-not-enough” that seems to permeate everything I do right now. How do I get past this? Doing one more thing, buying one more thing or “being” one more thing to someone else isn’t going to fix it.

I know that the Lord has to be both the motivation and the source of strength for everything I do. I long to do my best for Him (the motivation), but I realize: Am I fueled by His power or mine? 

Thankfully, I (finally) have enough sense to grab my Bible.

I find a few verses that begin to bring trickles of water to this dry and thirsty soul:

Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and trust is your strength. But you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt. They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’… So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.” Isaiah 30:15,16,18

Oh… am I not returning to God and resting in Him? Am I not trusting and “being still” (Psalm 46:10), waiting for him to answer? Have I tried to just figure things out myself (am I “getting my help from Egypt”)? I have a knack for trying to take the reins from Him, and this verse so aptly states that the best way for us to expend our energy is to return to him; rest in him; have quietness and trust in Him; and simply come to Him and wait for his help.

It all sounds so good in theory. The problem comes when the “rubber meets the road.” But God is so good to not only remind of the right path to take, but to help me literally make it possible to walk on that path.

I keep discovering verses until I find another that stops me in my tracks. It’s then that I realize the full picture of what’s been going on (and why I feel such a deep sense of frustration):

Now I will take the load from your shoulders; I will free your hands from their heavy tasks. You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you; I answered out of the thundercloud and tested your faith when there was no water at Meribah. Psalm 81:6-7

I had the most beautiful vision after reading this verse. There I was, strapped down by the (self-imposed) chains of my expectations and fears. I surely, have been trying to carry it all, Lord, I said to Him.

Carrying these burdens has been my ridiculous way of trying to control situations that are clearly not controllable. I’d also been trying to solve situations in my mind that may never happen.

It was time to take control of my thoughts and to allow them to stop running my mind. I needed to, once again, trust the provision of the one true God who knew the future, past and present.

He had not asked me to take these burdens on (I’d grabbed them from his hands, as a matter of fact), and like I heard a pastor say years ago, “God is not up in heaven taking Valium” because He is so stressed about taking care of them for me.

So the vision simply was his gentle hands tenderly lifting the weights off my hunched-over, crippled back. When the heaviness was gone, I finally could hold my back erect. I could also look straight in His eyes. I hadn’t realized it before, but my hunched-over back and neck had me focused on myself and my burdens instead of my connection with Him. 

Do you know the story about their being “no water at Meribah” (the story referenced in the verse)? I didn’t until I read about it in Exodus 17:1-7. In a nutshell, Moses had lead the Israelites into the desert and they were incredibly frustrated because they felt that God hadn’t provided for them:  “Tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children and our livestock with thirst?’” (Exodus 17:3). The Lord does a miracle here, telling Moses to strike part of Mount Sinai with his staff so that water comes “gushing out.”

The miracle provision here is of course really cool, but what strikes me about the story is verse 7: “Moses named the place ‘Massah’ (which means ‘test’) and ‘Meribah’ (which means ‘arguing’) because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, ‘Is the Lord here with us or not?’”

When challenges come, God gives us the choice to trust Him… or not. Our responses to the situation prove whether we are waiting for the Lord to work, or we are desperately trying to work it out ourselves.

In this situation, the Israelites had responded not in the quiet, trusting way of Isaiah 30:15, but in the taking-the-reins way that I too was famous for.

It was then I realized that I was not trusting God (no matter what my lips had said). I was trying to make my own water in the desert, which of course is impossible.

So herein was my choice: Did I want to walk through this desert time of uncertainty with testing, arguing, and frustration; or with the blessings of trust, peace and joy?

Psalms 73:24-26 reminded me:

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I know my sweet Jesus. He has proven himself trustworthy time and time and time again to me. So many times He’s provided miraculously and blessed me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined myself. I can’t always read His roadmap for my life, but oh, what sweet undiscovered paths He’s led me down—places I could never find myself.

So today I made the decision to allow God to remove the weight from my shoulders, and to stop trying to “make my own water.”  I’m choosing freedom and trust instead of imagined control and worry.  I may have to stop and refocus my heart several times as I continue to wander in this desert place, but I know who is leading me and that this journey is for my good.

How about you? What is burdening your soul today? In what areas are you trying to “make your own water”? Let me know here and I can pray for you.

He’s Calling Me: Quiet Moments with God

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There’s something sacred about running on a private beach with no other footprints.

That’s what I discovered this morning as I ventured out of our vacation condo and down the windy, forested path to the sea below.

The trail to the beach was exquisite onto itself. Beautiful clumps of evergreen and deciduous foliage lined the well-worn path, creating a canopy overhead that seemed as if I was walking through an enchanted forest. Bright purple foxglove stems broke through the sea of greenery, just begging to be noticed. Wild rabbits desired the opposite—darting into the bushes as I got too close.

I wound down, down, down through the trail’s switchbacks, wondering if the beach would be around the next bend. The ocean kept teasing me with the sound of the surf wafting through the trees. Where was it? Would I see it around this next corner? I wondered.

And then suddenly—I gasped! I rounded a bend and the shoreline revealed itself in all its majesty, like a bride to her waiting husband. I was treated to a magnificent 180 degree view of this morning’s running trail: the waiting sea in all her glory.

I stopped for a moment, trying to gather it all in. But I felt God’s gentle touch guiding me further. He said, “Come, my love… I have more to show you. Come be a part of the masterpiece that I’ve designed here.”

So I ventured down the rest of the trail, feeling at one with creation as my feet finally touched sand. The early morning mist had dissipated, revealing a rocky shoreline with large volcanic rocks jutting out of the majestic blue sea.

The waves here weren’t the large-crashing-kind good for surfing, but instead gentle, rolling waves that lap at the edges of the rocks. It wasn’t a violent powerful surf, but a quiet, confident one. Occasionally a bigger wave came and the roar of the ocean echoed off the mountaintops surrounding the beach. But mainly it was a lovely, steady lull—a soft, peaceful rhythm that is the epitome of peace.

My shoes sunk slightly into the wet sand. As I began to quicken my pace into a run, they made a steady imprint down the beach, detailing my exact steps. It was a nice break from the usual concrete pushback when I ran on the streets near my home. The sand was perfect and evenly smoothed from the tide—no footprints of any kind were visible besides my own.

This may have been the epitome of solitude, but I realized quickly that I wasn’t alone.

Amidst the roar of the ocean waves, I noticed a sea lion and a seal lazily reclining on the rocks about 40 feet from me. Crabs scuttled under rocks as I passed by and sea gulls cried overhead as my feet plop-plop-plopped down the beach. I stopped to pick up a starfish—an incredible find that I knew my kids would love—that had beached itself about 20 feet from the water’s edge.

Yes, life, real life (not the hustle and bustle of my everyday life that I usually call “living”) was here. It was indescribable to breathe it in and to be a part of it.

And in a place like this, it was impossible not to stop and take notice of it.

I was reminded of verses from “Maybe There’s A Loving God,” a song by Sara Groves that details her first realizations that God does exist and that he in fact did love her:

I’m trying to work things out
I’m trying to comprehend
Am I the chance result
Of some great accident
I hear a rhythm call me
The echo of a grand design
I spend each night in the backyard
Staring up at the stars in the sky

Maybe this was made for me 

for lying on my back in the middle of a field                                                                                                                                                       

Maybe that’s a selfish thought                                                                                                                                                                                            

Or maybe there’s a loving God

Romans 1:19-20 also came to mind: “[People] know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

It’s hard not to think of God when surrounded by nature’s beauty. This verse tells us that this is how God designed us.

Later that day, we wandered down the beach trail as a family, and the kids couldn’t stop noticing all the created beauty: “Look at this flower!” “This slug is huge!” “Whoa! Look at the size of that jellyfish!” Kids automatically stop and take notice of creation.  

Yes, we adults are created that way too (Romans 1:19-20 confirms this) but sometimes the hectic pace of life clouds our vision, making it more of an effort to simply stop and discover God in the world around us.  Sometimes it takes moments like these—moments of solitude in quiet places—for us to finally examine God’s real world outside our front door.

Something, someone created the intricacies of a starfish; chiseled caverns into the sides of mighty rocks; and artfully juxtaposed colorful blooms with bushy evergreen bushes and winding vines on a forested trail. “Someone” had also provided just the right amount of food for those shy bunnies and lazy sea lions. I realized it was also the same “someone” that had made my heart beat faster as I ran; and who had given me eyes, ears and a nose to process all that was around me.

While my morning run had begun as a simple quest for a few minutes of solitude and calorie-burning, it was evident that “someone” had intended it to be much more. God had created that exact moment in time for me to be with Him in that place, reveling in all His glory.

Did he love me that much? Did he really create all of this “for me,” as Sara Groves sings about? Did he do all of this just to capture my attention and point my wandering heart back to what real life looks like—full, eternal life in Him?

Yes, yes, and yes.

He is calling each of us to a realization of real life, and creation is a ready and available tool. No man is without excuse because we are all surrounded by clear evidences of an ordered, designed world.

The question is—do we slow down enough to notice it?

Where have you wandered when you’ve felt like you’ve been one with God’s handiwork?