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Posts Tagged ‘rest’

(Today I’m at fellow Living by Grace hostess Maria Morgan’s blog talking about my editing services, my writing, and my Jesus. Join me. :) )

Have you ever longed for one more hour in your day? One more day in your week? One more month before the holidays? ;) If so, perhaps you’re taking on responsibilities and tasks God never assigned to you. Last week, Chana Keefer encouraged us to keep first things first. (You can read her post here.) But how do we do that? How do we filter out all the gunk that crowds our day in order to bring us back in the center of God’s will?

This summer and fall, our move and some health issues forced me to do some major schedule-cleaning. At times, this has been hard, but remembering God’s in control and that His love is incomprehensible, never failing, helps. And as I prayerfully evaluate my schedule, it’s raised an important question: How much of my day is centered in God’s will? What activities come from selfish motivations or fear?

There’s only one way to know for sure, and that’s to bring everything–the big, the small, the mundane, and the exciting–before God, asking for guidance.

“What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,” says the Lord. “You make plans that are contrary to mine. YOu make alliances not directed by My Spirit, thus piling up your sins” (Isaiah 31:1 NLT).

In Isaiah 31, God is specifically chastising the people of Israel for forming an alliance with Egypt instead of looking to God for aid.

We may not be facing a military battle or fearful of a raid, but how often do we allow our fears–of rejection, of failure, of poverty or illness–crowd out the voice of God?

And what’s the result? Sorrow. Packing our schedule full of things that are not assigned by God leaves us depleted, discouraged, and sorrowful.

God says, “Only in returning to Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15b NLT).

Only in returning to God–seeking Him out in each moment and courageously carving out those time-stealers that leave us ineffective. Confident that, if we follow whole-heartedly after God, He will work everything out.

I love this quote from Glynnis Whitwer from Proverbs 31 Ministries:

“The key to balance is seeking God’s will for me in this season, and not spending time on assignments meant for other people.”

(You can read her entire devotion titled One Cup Life here.)

Seeking God’s will in *every season,* whether you’re residing in the palace or the desert.

What about you? How many time-stealers have you allowed to creep into your day? How many of your obligations are based on a desire to please others? On fear of failure? Fear of the future, or fear of illness? Selfishness or pride? And is that time-stealer robbing you of experiencing God’s best?

Let’s talk about this.

Join us at Living by Grace today as we talk about making God and the things of God first in our lives.

And make sure to come back to Living By Grace Friday and Saturday for a continuation of our in-depth look at the book of James.

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Most of us are familiar with the story of Mary and Martha. If asked, I suspect many would readily admit we have much more Martha in us than we’d like.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Martha and Mary were sisters in ancient Palestine. They were close friends with Jesus. More than friends–they adored Him. One day, Jesus came for a visit, and Martha went frantic. (You can read the account here.) As would I.

Can you imagine the Creator of the universe stepping inside your kitchen? Drinking from your water-stained glasses? Or am I the only one with dusty furniture, buggy light fixtures, and cobwebs hanging in corners?

Like Martha, when I get on a cleaning-doing-rampage, I expect everyone to join me. For truly, how could anyone possibly sit while so much needs to be done? But in my dolling out tasks and responsibilities, I need to be careful I don’t rob my loved ones of God’s “better.”

It takes a lot of strength … patience … surrender, to sit at Jesus’ feet. We’ve all got to do lists, ambitions, and obligations that threaten to sap our time. Add in a frenzied Martha condemning our efforts, and how many of us can continue to abide?

It’s so hard to be a Mary in a Martha world! For us and our loved ones, which is why we need to be careful not to kill their Mary through over-scheduling.

Each day, I must ask myself–what am I training in my daughter? Am I cultivating an atmosphere that encourages divine-connections, where it’s okay to be a Mary? Do I actively adjust our schedule in order to leave time for God’s best? And what do I praise most, her commitment to Christ or her earthly achievements?

This is a hard one–especially when raising a teen. We want to teach responsibility, service, hard-work ethics. We want to expose our kids to the world. And there’s always so much that needs to be done! That can be done.

To find the balance, I believe we need to continually pare things back to the basics–training our child/encouraging our loved ones to know Christ and make Him known. If their lives, our families, center around that, everything else will fall into place.

This summer has been fairly easy for us. Our schedule leaves plenty of time for family discussions and Bible reading. My challenge will come this fall when sports, classes, and activities threaten to crowd out those family-bonding, spiritually-nurturing times. I pray, when our schedule balloons, God will provide a dose of Mary to balance my Martha, giving me the wisdom to differentiate the must-dos from the can-dos.

Moms and Grandmas, which woman do you relate to today? Are you a Martha, running around ragged, wishing others would help you? Or maybe you’re surrounded by a thousand want-tos–those blessings like amusement parks, sports teams, and gatherings with friends. Be careful your to-do and want-to-do lists don’t rob your children and grandchildren of their time with God.

Maybe you’re a Mary desperately needing time with Jesus, but the obligations of others weigh you down. Today I encourage you to close your ears to the voice of man and tune them instead to Jesus, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one” (Luke 10:41b-42a NIV).

And invite your kids to do the same. Each day show them what it means to abide.

Some things to try:

1. Read a Bible passage after dinner and, instead of teaching, invite each family member to share how God spoke to them through the passage.

2. Create a family quiet time with no tv, soft praise music playing, attractive journals for family members to write in.

3. Take your family on a prayer walk/hike.

Do you have any ideas to share? How have you encouraged your children to draw near to Christ? How have you modeled a vibrant, abiding faith? What are some ways you’ve tackled the schedule monster, and what were the results? What’s *one thing* you can and will do this week to foster an atmosphere of abiding?

Before you begin your busy day, pause to soak in, to rest in, Jesus words, spoken in John 15:4: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” (NLT)

Life’s tough. You can’t do it alone. Neither can our kids. Let’s teach them how to tap into and remain connected to their power source.

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about ways to train up Marys in a Martha world.

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I get a kick out of watching my fourteen year old daughter hover between childhood and adulthood. As she matures, she experiments with clothing and hair styles, slang words, and all those other things inherent to the teenage years. We’ve had countless conversations about outfits, make-up, and jewelry, and have spent hours upon hours perusing clothing racks. Yes, her world revolves around clothes and hair right now.

Had I not spent so much time researching identity issues for a contemporary youth program I’m writing for Christ to the World Ministries, I may be tempted to think her behavior is selfish and shallow. Shouldn’t I be training her to look beyond those things? To focus on things more important? To an extent, perhaps, but I’ve learned to spend as much time trying to understand her heart as I do observing and trying to correct her behavior. Most often, there’s more going on than I first assume.

I’ve realized my daughter’s behavior really isn’t about clothes or hair. It’s about something much deeper. With every outfit, hair flip, and music choice, she’s trying to establish her identity. No easy trait considering how many changes she’s been through over the past three years. Puberty hits, and suddenly she finds herself staring at a stranger in the mirror. Friends change, and she needs to decide which group to “merge with”. She longs to belong but also needs to be unique, longs for closeness and security at home while fighting for independence.

Although most of us move past this developmental stage, I think we all struggle with our identity at times. As Donna Stone shared on Monday, sometimes we allow who we are to get tied up in what we do.

When that happens, it helps to remind ourselves of how God sees us. If you belong to Christ, He says:

You are dearly loved (Col. 3:12)

Redeemed (1 Cor 6:20)

A masterpiece (Eph. 2:10)

Christ’s friend (John 15:15)

God’s child (John 1:12)

Chosen and adopted (Eph 1:3-8)

Complete (Col. 2:9-10)

Secure (Rom. 8:11)

Are you feeling pulled in a million directions today? Like perhaps you don’t quite measure up? Spend a moment reflecting on these verses and ask God to show you how He sees you.

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about what it means to rest in who we are in Christ.

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Our family is in a period of uncertaintly, a time where we wake up each morning saying, “Okay, God, what next?” I don’t need to go into too many details except to say, we understand God’s admonishion in James 4:13 “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” For a plotter, scheduler, preparer like me, this gets a little uncomfortable. And it leaves me with two choices: Angst over a perpetual list of what-ifs, or rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Resting doesn’t come easy. Nor does waiting…for that job offer, that phone call, that medical report, whatever,…Oh, how I long to plan! To know! To do!

But God says, “Trust in me.”

Psalm 16:1-11

1 Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.

2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
3 I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.

5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay. (Although verses 8-11 are what’s referred to as a Messianic Psalm, referring to Jesus and His ressurrection, God has promised to never abandon us as well. Faithfulness to those He loves is who He is. It is His very nature.)
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

What about you? Are you going through a time of transition or uncertainty? What are some certain, unwavering truths you can hold tight to? Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about resting in the Father’s arms.

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I hope today’s post by Kiersti Plog brings you into a restful and prayerful weekend. I often talk about moment-by-moment surrender. That’s different than scheduled obedience. One follows a list of rules, turning religion into a ritual. The other follows the risen Savior, drawing to His side with ears open and a heart driven by love and ready to obey. It’s easier to follow the to-do list, and if the two-do list centers around religious activity, it’s easy to feel righteous by our actions. But God didn’t say “Come perform.” He said, “Follow me. Take my yoke upon you. Abide in Me. Draw near to Me. Let Me permeate every part of your being, speaking to you gently, like a dear friend and ever-faithful father.”

Be Still by Kiersti Plog

As I write this, quiet rests over our patio. A bird twittered above my head at first, but now I think he has moved to a more distant treetop. The neighbors’ air conditioner hums. Leaves rustle in a faint summer breeze.

I came out here to write an entirely different post. But when I sat down and even typed the title, I sensed the Lord whispering to my heart through the little bird’s song. Be still. Listen. Only I didn’t listen. I wanted to get my post done. I went inside for a pair of earphones, so I could hear music that might inspire me for the post I wanted to write. While inside, I realized I should fix my grandmother a snack. As I peeled and sliced our homegrown peaches for her, my heart relented. Okay, Lord. I’m sorry. I’ll listen.

I came back outside with my own teacup of peaches, milk, and cream. I sat back down. And I began to write, this time trying to listen to the Lord as I did.

It’s challenging, in this world of Facebook and iPhones, of deadlines and crammed schedules, to be still. To listen. Life has been hectic for our family lately, between Seussical rehearsals, set-painting and the multitude of details that must be organized in preparation for the show’s opening this week, on top of the day-to-day tasks and grandma-care and emails that must still happen somehow. Many a night I stay up typing past midnight, since it is hard to fit much novel-writing into daylight hours right now. I know others’ lives are just as busy with their own plethora of duties, joys, and responsibilities the Lord has given them. Good things, many of these. But it is often hard to remember to stop long enough to be still and know that He is God.

I’m reminded, though, of the devotional my mom led for our cast before rehearsal yesterday. The name of our theater company is Showlights, and at the beginning of this school year my mom gave each student a glow-in-the-dark star. She explained they must let the star sit under a bright light for a while before it could shine in the darkness. Yesterday, she brought the star box out again and passed it around once more, as many of our cast members are newer to the group and had not received one. And she reminded them that, just like these stars, we cannot shine the light of Jesus unless we take time to soak in His presence, His light. My mom encouraged each of our young actors to take time this week, in spite of the busyness, to spend time with Jesus, to absorb Him, so that we might truly “show light” to our audiences as our show opens this weekend. My own heart was touched as I listened to her words and the children’s prayers.

Often, the Lord has to remind me that,

“In returning and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15, literal translation)

I don’t want the ending of the verse to be true of me: “But you were not willing.”

I’m thankful He helped me to be willing today. And hopefully someday soon, I’ll get that other post written. ☺

May you know His rest this Friday.

Kiersti Plog,a writer and tutor in southern California, holds a life-long love for history and historical fiction. She has been published in Grit, Clubhouse Jr., and two newspapers and was also a staff writer for the Global Xpress Kids Club magazine for over two years. She is currently working on a historical novel set at a Navajo mission boarding school in 1911, a story inspired by living in northwest New Mexico for five years.

Kiersti holds a B.A. in English with a writing emphasis from Azusa Pacific University and has also completed the “Writing for Children and Teenagers” course with the Institute of Children’s Literature. She has been a writing consultant at Azusa Pacific University and Pasadena City College, as well as a private tutor. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and loves learning and growing with other writers penning God’s story into theirs.

 

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Yesterday I fought against discouragement–for no apparent reason. Except perhaps that I was over-tired. In fact, I’m starting to notice a pattern, and although I usually keep my “down days” to myself, I wondered if perhaps I wasn’t not alone. And I believe the Christian life is meant to be lived out loud so that we can learn, encourage, and strengthen one another. So, I’m sharing my discouragement with you. Aren’t you lucky?

Most days I’m pretty happy, but every once in a while when my energy level wears thin or my to-do-list  balloons–BAM!–discouragement hits me square in the nose. Not a fun feeling, but honestly, I should have seen it coming.

I’ve been on overdrive since June, and it appears I’ve finally hit the crash and burn stage. Certainly didn’t help matters that, after pushing myself a bit harder than I should have, I stayed up late reading. So, I woke up behind and tired. Not a good combination. Yep, I asked for a gloomy day.

I’m working on a tween devo project with another writer and just happened to be on the story of Elijah. Funny how God does that. Fighting against my own discouragement, I found the account in 1 Kings 19 very comforting! Although, unlike me, Elijah actually had a right to be discouraged! Well, kind of, minus the fact that his discouragement rode on the heels of some pretty amazing miracles. In chapter seventeen, God fed him through ravens. Then God used him to feed a widow’s family, then raise her son from the dead. In chapter eighteen, through Elijah, God made a mockery of the prophets of Baal and Asherah when flames consumed his water-drenched offering. Shortly thereafter, God sent rain, then gave Elijah special strength, allowing him to run ahead of King Ahab’s chariot.

But when we get to chapter nineteen, Elijah learns Jezebel wants to kill him. He fled and it wasn’t long before his energy drained. Spent and discouraged, he collapsed beneath a tree and begged God to take his life.

Now that’s discouraged.

But notice what God does in verses 5-9 (NIV)

5Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

   All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

 7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.

God fed him and gave Elijah time to rest. Then, do you notice what Elijah did? He went to the mountain of God–he spent time with God, to be strengthened and encouraged by His Creator.

So how’d I handle my burgeoning discouragement yesterday? I let God love it away. Instead of allowing discouragement to steal my joy, I 1) took time to rest, 2) took care of my physical needs by eating nourishing food 3) spent time with my Heavenly Father and 4) remembered all  the great things He has done.

And hopefully, the next time a wave of discouragement comes, before I allow the gloom to settle, I’ll step back, evaluate the situation and my state of mind, remembering Elijah and what God did to pull Elijah back on his feet.

I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite verses–one I hold tight to.

James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Draw near to God today and tuck this promise in your heart, knowing God is there, surrounding you in His unfailing love. He is inviting you in His throne room, to sit at His feet and to rest. To be refreshed and made new. To be loved unconditionally, completely.

What about you? How do you handle those moments of discouragement?

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First of all, run now, while you still have a chance. Just kidding. But seriously, writing is not for the thin-skinned. And it isn’t nearly as glamorous as it might seem. In fact, most days you’ll be glued to your computer, still in PJ’s at two in the afternoon, ball cap by your side in case one of your normal, presentable neighbors happen by. Although truth be told, you probably won’t answer the door anyway. Or the phone. Until the tips of your fingers throb from pounding your keyboard and your eyes cross from hours upon hours of edits.

Then you’ll stand up to force blood into your numbed legs and glance out the window as you try to reconnect with reality. You’d love to have someone to chat with, only all your neighbors are at work. You call a friend and leave a message. You hop on facebook and make a few random posts. You pace the room and have a few conversations with yourself. But then you glance at the clock. It’s just after one, which means you’ve got about two hours before the kids return from school and your nice silent haven turns into an unproductive madhouse. So, you toss all thoughts of socialization aside and bunker down. But hey, you’ve always got Alice, the heroine in your latest novel. She’s your friend, right?

Actually, I totally love what I do. I can’t envision myself doing anything else. (And believe me, I’ve tried. When I’ve noticed a fatal plot error requiring a total re-write or my computer crashes halfway through a 90,000 word document.) But I’m still here, plugging away, day after day, word after word. Only now, I’ve learned to do things differently.

1) I find ways to stay connected.

When I first started writing, I did it alone. It wasn’t long before I fell into a pattern of discouragement. We all experience that once in awhile, when our negative self-talk runs amuck and those fears, insecurities and frustrations bite away at our resolve. Now I’m a part of three writer’s groups and I cherish the support they offer. I’ve also taken the time to nurture deeper relationships with a few ladies I’ve met along the way. Yeah, they’re largely internet and phone relationships, but they work. My greatest resource has been the American Christian Fiction Writers network. They have an amazing online loop, numerous mature Christian authors who love pouring into the lives of newbies, and a phenomenal critique group.

2) I choose my close friends wisely.

The other day I listened to a writer friend talk about how someone had totally slammed on both her and her work. Not in your normal, “I think this would be stronger if…” This was all-out brutality. As she talked, I was reminded of the story of Joseph and how his brothers and father responded when he shared his God-given dream with them. They scoffed. They were so focused on who Joseph was–a runt–they overlooked the power standing behind him.

Writing is tough. You’re going to face rejection. A lot. You’re going to have to make tough decisions and you’re going to have to overcome a lot of inner demons that threaten to keep you stagnant. You certainly don’t need naysayers dragging you down. To the contrary. You need strong Christian friends who will encourage you to keep on keeping on, with your eyes focused on the goal with unwavering determination.

2) I learned to abide. (John 15:1-4)

If you want to write more than mindless drivel, you’re gonna need to learn to rest. To trust. To listen. To fight the urge to do things in your own strength and wisdom as you continually lay yourself on the alter. This is a toughy, especially when you’ve got deadlines coming your way or writer’s block dragging you down. Our first tendency is to try harder and in doing so, we fail to connect with our true source of wisdom and power.

The other day I had the task of turning nine Bible chapters into an eight hundred word leaflet. Not an easy thing to do, especially for a word lover like me. And I really didn’t have the time to fret over it. Fretting is the biggest time sapper there is! So instead of forcing a bunch of drivel onto the screen, I closed my computer, walked into the bedroom and turned on some praise music. Basically, I passed the buck. I knew God had brought me this assignment. I knew He had a plan for it. I just needed to wait for Him to share His plan with me.

After spending a few moments in prayer and quiet, I returned to my computer with clarity and finished the leaflet in a relatively short period of time.

4) Take time to get away.

Those momentary refreshers are great, but they’re not enough. At least not for me. I can only rely on shout-out prayers for so long before my creativity begins to shrivel. Every once in a while I need to create my own little spiritual retreat. Normally I don’t go far. Maybe I’ll visit a hiking trail nearby or spend a few hours in a nearby park with my Pandora radio (on my iphone), a Bible and a notebook. Sometimes the getting there is hard, especially when my tasks are mounting, but I’ve learned those are the times when I most need to get away. And once I do, once I spend those cherished moments connecting with God, I come back twice as productive as before.

5) Let it go.

God’s already got the whole journey figured out. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Try not to look at the day-to-day. Learn as you go, walking forward with an eyes-wide-open approach as God guides you towards the finish line.

6) Take your thoughts captive.

Negativity breeds negativity. And quite frankly, it’s a waste of time–time you don’t have. Make a decision, right now, not to allow discouragement to linger in your brain. If God’s got it covered, what is there to be discouraged about? So you’ve got a 60,000 word rewrite, or realized your eighth edit wasn’t enough. And? I’m not joining your pity party here. I’m waiting at the finish line with my camera ready to catch your victorious smile when you break through the tape.

 

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