Choosing What Ball to Drop

I drop a lot of balls. I’m fairly certain I routinely disappoint a lot of people. I’m late responding to text messages, my house is rarely clean, and there are times when I go to cook dinner and find the fridge empty.

Each day, there are things I choose to ignore, and other things that get ignored by default. And yet, even with the latter, I make the choice. By choosing to do one thing, I am, in essence, choosing to let something else go. 

Time is our most precious–and most easily lost and wasted–resource.

I want to make sure I’m making the most of it. That I’m actively choosing which balls to drop. Because when something’s important to me, I make time for it. My priorities are revealed in my schedule.

Made beds and empty sinks are not top on my list.

So what is?

Jesus. My husband. My daughter. My church family and my friends.

At least, that’s what I say. But is this true? Does this claim reveal itself in my typical day?

God had given Him an incredible task, the most important responsibility known to man, and His time was incredibly short. In the span of maybe six years, Jesus was to reveal the heart of His Father to all mankind, pay for the sins of humanity, select and train a small group of motley men to birth His church, defeat death and sin, rise from the dead, and then return to the Father.

All while people were pressing in on Him, begging for His time, for His healing, His touch, wherever He went.

For me, that’s when things get exponentially difficult–when I’ve got something I know I need to do, but it feels like everyone else needs me. If I’m not careful, I can get swept into the chaos and confusion of other people’s expectations and lose sight of what Christ is calling me to do. 

In other words, there are many times when I put everyone and everything above my Savior. 

Is that idolatry? I’m not sure, but I know it’s contradictory to what I often claim–that Jesus is my Lord, my master, my God. Instead, in those moments, He becomes an addition. Almost an afterthought. One that leaves me exhausted, depleted, and hovering near but never quite grasping the abundant life Christ offers (John 10:10).

You may be familiar with this fact: As Jesus taught and healed in Galilee, His fame grew, and “vast crowds” followed Him (Luke 5:15), pressing in on Him, wherever He went. So, He dropped everything and immediately responded to their demands, right? Wouldn’t that be the loving, the “Christian” thing to do?

Not always. “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 15:16, NLT). There were times He chose to ignore the constant pull of the crowd, the very ones He’d come to save, to remove Himself–in order to be filled. Refueled. Re-centered. 

This left the disciples baffled. “Everyone is looking for you,” they said. (Mark 1:35-37)

I can almost hear the exasperation in their voices: “Lord, where have You been???”

Where? With His Father.

Reading this, I’m tempted to think, “But that was Jesus. He was God, and I’m clearly not.”

And yet, Jesus came not only to give us life but to show us, in clear, tangible steps, how to live it. And, through His death and resurrection, He gave us the power to do just that. 

The question I must ask myself is: will I? Will I be intentional in how I spend my time, will I treat the most important things as the most important things? Will I trust that if I put Him first, He’ll take care of everything else

Let’s talk about this! Take a moment to prayerfully evaluate your schedule. What does it reveal about your priorities? What might you need to shift in order to place God more at the center?

Everything is easier when done in community, and for that reason, I invite you to join Maria Morgan and I this coming Tuesday to, daily, dig into God’s Word the Bible and dialogue together about how we can live it out. Find out more HERE. I hope you’ll join us!

Before you go, I have a fun announcement! You can now pre-order my next release, Healing Love! Grab your copy HERE!

And for those who enjoy following me online, here’s where I’ve been this week:

Monday I visited Kristen Terrette’s blog to talk about Preparing for Divine Appointments.

Yesterday I visited Sandra chatted with writers about a similar topic, Making Time to Write When it Feels You Have None to Give.

Today I’m on Julie Arduini’s blog talking about Saying Yes to God (even when that involves transparency and vulnerability).

And for the book lovers among us, I wanted to tell you about Wholly Loved’s Operational Manager Dawn Ford’s debut release, Knee High Lies–so good! Check it out HERE.

Advertisements

The Road to Restoration

johnstudy1

The Road to Restoration
by Jan Pierce

Luke 3: 4-6 “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight. Every ravine shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” 

We believers are aware of the need to “fill the valleys and level the hills” for those who have never heard the Gospel. They may not understand God’s ways or the depth of their sin. They don’t grasp their need of a Savior. But how do we deal with long-time Christians who fall into sin?

They know better.

I’d been saved for over twenty years and my husband was a pastor. I taught Sunday School and women’s groups. I’d studied the Bible forward and backward for many years. I knew heartsickness-428103_640about sin and the wiles of the enemy.

I knew better.

But even though I knew, over the course of several months I allowed a relationship with another church leader to go beyond the bounds of friendship. I moved into a secretive and “romantic” relationship with a man not my husband. And though the relationship never became sexual, my heart was divided.

We’d been friends for years, enjoyed social times as couples, gone on leadership retreats, worked side by side to build a church. We’d even lived with the family for a time while we were in the process of buying a home. We were friends. We loved their children and they loved ours.

I sinned.

Once the relationship became common knowledge we were required to go before the church and confess. We were not allowed to speak to one another again. He lost his leadership position and moved away. I lost my good reputation.

Although all of this took place over twenty years ago, some of the lessons learned are as nature-669592_640fresh today as they were then. I learned first-hand about ways to minister to those caught in the web of sin. I learned what helps and what doesn’t.

My Father God sent Jesus to die for my sins. He wanted me restored to Him. And I was. But as I look back on that time I realize we Christians often don’t know how to love someone back on their feet. We mess it up.

From My Perspective:

  • Though I’d behaved in sinful ways I was shocked at my own behavior.
  • I didn’t expect anyone to overlook my sin or condone it.
  • I was numb both in mind and spirit—it felt as if I had watched another person’s behaviors.
  • Long lists of scriptures handed to me by well-meaning believers were not helpful.
  • Notes and letters of condemnation and shame broke me further.
  • At the most horrible time of my life most friends and acquaintances had no idea how to help. They disappeared.

Over many months and years I received my healing. I traced the roots of my unhealthy need for approval that led to attention seeking. I came to understand some of the “ministry” I received had not been at all helpful, though well-intentioned.

How can we do better? How can we help to “make the crooked straight and the rough roads smooth?”  These are the actions and behaviors that brought healing and eventual wholeness to my heart.

Unconditional Love

While I didn’t expect or want friends to condone what I’d done, I was not able to take in corrective words at rope-1469244_640that time. I was in shock. I was grieved beyond words. I could barely get through the days—going to work, cooking meals, being me. Those who were able to reassure me of their unconditional love were like healing balm to my raw heart. One woman said, “I don’t care what you did, I love you anyway.” Another stood in church beside me and read a verse of God’s redemption with a strong, firm voice. A man I barely knew wrote me a letter telling of the struggles in his own marriage and sending encouraging words filled with love. I’ll never forget those who acknowledged that I’d fallen, but loved me until the day I could stand again.

The Gift of Time

Because we were in positions of leadership, everyone involved went through painful transitions. We lost our leadership positions. We eventually lost our church body. We were like lepers calling out “unclean.” Friends disappeared like a mist. A teacher friend once said, “Nobody loves you when you have head lice.” It was like that. Those who were willing to spend time with me, talk with me, listen and pray—they were gold.

Honesty Concerning Consequences

When sin twists its way into our lives there are dreadful consequences. There is no reason girl-517555_640to minimize them. One friend said: “It will eventually be like a broken bone that’s healed. There will always be that knit-together place,  that scar.” And he was right. The consequences were great. Innocent people were hurt. The ripples of the events traveled out to family members, friends and beyond. We lost people we loved. I had to face dark places in my own being that I’d ignored to my own hurt. To be honest, years and years have passed, but there are still awkward meetings with friends from those days—a wedding where we run into them, a funeral we don’t attend because we would run into them. It’s a sad fact that sin destroys. But…

Moving On

Praise God He sent Jesus to die for the very sins I committed. It was a long time before I healed. It took encouraging words from a new pastor who helped me get “unstuck” from shame and guilt. He offered to pray with me, counsel with me—whatever it took to regain love-699480_640my true identity as a beloved daughter of the King.

There’s a time for mourning and then there’s a time for moving on. I returned to teaching and leading women in the church. My husband and I began a ministry to Christians in India. We rejoiced that our marriage not only survived but became stronger and healthier. We counted our blessings.

John preached the message: “Repent, the King is coming.” And He did. He came and died for your sins and mine. He came to restore and heal. Let’s join hands with Him to bring restoration and hope to His people.

*** 

homegrown-family-fun-frontToday’s children are missing out on old-fashioned unstructured creative play. They seldom run and play outdoors. They don’t spend time building forts or making mud pies. Their primary choices involve computerized screentime. While computerized games and activities can be educational, they eat up the time that would otherwise be spent in active, kid-powered play—the work of childhood. Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged offers hundreds of ways to encourage healthy play, both indoors and out. Find this helpful family resource at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.

***

jan-109acrop1Jan Pierce is a Christian wife, mother of two, grandmother of four little boys and a retired school teacher. She draws on her life experiences to write both fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of Homegrown Readers and the newly-released Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged. Both  available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.

Taking Hold of My Marbles!

Do you remember those nights when you bolted awake at every sniffle, whimper, or rustling sound your baby made?

The days when you wished naptimes were just a wee bit longer?naptime

When you wondered if you’d ever be able to spend five minutes alone, eat a meal uninterrupted, or get out of the house without five to ten potty breaks taken between the time you say, “Let’s go!” to the zip of a coat?

I do. And once the chaos calmed, I remeber wishing someone had told me those sleepless nights wouldn’t last forever. That there would be days when our house would be insanely, hauntingly quiet.

That our baby would grow up, grow independent, and the tables would flip.

No longer would she be following me around with arms raised, “Momma, hold me!”

Now I’m the one following her around, “Want to talk? How was your day? Can we…?”

My husband and I have less than two years before our princess launches into adulthood, moves away, and our relationship is relegated to phone calls, random texts, and the occasional family vacation.

In essence, we’re losing our marbles. This morning a dear friend and longtime mentor, SandyT, forwarded me the following: “Savor the Season

The words she sent reiterated a message God continues to pour into my heart, reminding me to make the most of the time I’ve been given, because it won’t last.

A couple of Sundays ago, our church played a video illustrating this truth. You can watch it here:

Playing For Keeps from Orange on Vimeo.

So, what will Steve and I do, to make the most of the marbles we have left?

We’ve decided to engage. To take the time and energy to schedule fun and silliness into our week. Yes, I said schedule, because if we don’t get intentional about how we use our time, it’ll get away from us.

girlscookingThis past Tuesday, I spent a few marbles for a girls night in. My house wasn’t spotless, the recipes weren’t perfect, and I didn’t have all those fancy cooking gadgets.

I had proposals and articles to write, ministry stuff to take care of, and laundry piling on the bed.

But I also had a kitchen, some random ingredients, and some special people to enjoy.

I suppose I could’ve allowed all those “didn’t/wasn’ts” to hinder my plans. But I chose not to.

Because I’ve only got so many marbles, and once they’re gone, well…

So I carved out a few hours and set aside my to-do list (as did my guests).

We made truffles and mini-cheesecakes, following recipes some, improvising girlssmooshingmore.

*

*

*

There were lots of giggles and story-sharing.

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

And a small chocolate battle. (Which I won!)Ashchoco

It took some planning, some preparing, and carving out a few hours of our evenings. But the pay-off was well worth it!

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Don’t lose your marbles, my friend! You’ve only got so many! And each one is a gift from God. How will you use the marbles you’ve been given? What are two things you plan to do this holiday season to make a memory? (Please note, if you do not have family nearby, you can still create a fun memory! Invite someone over for a baking or hot cocoa sipping day, or pop by a friend’s house with a Tim Hawkins’ video. 😉 )

Join the conversation here, in the comments below, or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Who Gets Your Leftovers?

Today’s reading: Proverbs 3; Micah 3:6-15

Today’s focal verse: Proverbs 3:9-10

Today’s focus: Giving God our best

1381091_time_is_moneyThis week’s memory verse: Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the best part of everything you produce.
Then he will fill your barns with grain,
    and your vats will overflow with good wine (NLT).

Let’s face it, there’s only so much of us to go around. We’ve only got so much resources, so much time, so much energy. At any moment in your day, you’ve got to choose–who or what will you focus on and who will take a back seat? If you’re like me, you often feel like you’re running in circles chasing fires, always one too many steps behind.

So what do you do when your day spins out of control?

You stop, give it to God, and determine to do things differently, placing Him and the things of Him at the top of your to do list.

Proverbs 3:9-10 says:

Honor the Lord with your wealth
and with the best part of everything you produce.
Then he will fill your barns with grain,
and your vats will overflow with good wine.

Although this verse is talking about our material wealth, I believe the principle applies to all of our resources, including our time, gifts, and talents.

It can be quite easy to write a check to a ministry. Serving in that same ministry or carving out devoted time for prayer can be another matter.

I’ve been involved in children’s ministry for almost 15 years now. That’s fifteen years, 780 weeks, 2,340 hours of craft prep, snotty-nose wiping, mess-cleaning, game-playing, and yes, there have been times when I’ve felt burned out, when my flesh wanted to take the easy way out, to absent-mindedly go through the motions without fully engaging. But then God’s spirit within me pricks my conscious and reminds me, no matter what ministry I’m doing, I’m serving Him, and He deserves my absolute best.

Pause to prayerfully consider this week’s memory verse. Think of your daily Bible reading and prayer time. Have you set aside a time for God when you are at your best, most alert? If not, when would be a good time to do that?

Think of the ministry you serve in. How might your service be an act of worship? And how might viewing it as such change you how approach it?

Think of your gifts and talents. Are you using them to glorify God or to glorify yourself? For example, I believe God has gifted me with a desire to write. This week and last, the Proverbs Bible study has taken a large chunk of my time. Time I could’ve spent working on articles or my current manuscript, and yes, there have been moments when my flesh fought for dominance, inviting me to join it’s pity, “what about me!” party, but I chose not to listen. I chose to obey what I believed God had called me to do–engage in the Proverbs study, giving it my absolute best, trusting Him to take care of the other stuff.

I don’t regret it, for every moment I follow wholeheartedly after Him, I feel His peace, His love, His presence.

Let’s talk about this. Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the discussion in our online study group.


Click to join ProverbsStudy

Let’s take a moment to consider our progress. Don’t try to answer or contemplate all the questions below as often, when we attempt to do too much, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and lose effectiveness. Instead, focus on the one area you really want to see growth in.

I know many of you are following along with our Proverbs reading and Bible study.

How are you doing with your Bible reading and verse memorization commitment? Have you established a routine, and if so, has it helped you to be more disciplined? (You might find it helpful to review January 1st’s devotional.)

As you continue to read through Proverbs and store God’s Word in your heart, are you noticing a difference in how you approach and view your day? Are you consulting with God more throughout the day, seeking His wisdom? (You might find it helpful to review January 2nd’s devotional.)

How are you doing with your Bible reading time? Are you taking the time to really digest it and dig for God’s meaning? Have you tried using a lexicon? Reading verses and/or passages in different translations? Any new discoveries? (You might find it helpful to review January 3rd’s devotion.)

How has your trust level grown? Are you choosing to think about and focus on God’s truth and unchanging nature? And if so, has that helped you experience increased peace? (You might find it helpful to focus on January 5th’s devotional.)  

What’s *one* thing you choose to focus on today?

Grabbing Hold of God Moments

A while back, after one particularly crabby day, my daughter looked at me and said, “You forgot to pray today, didn’t you?”

Standing in our kitchen, schooled by a child, I realized how much truth she packed in that statement. Amidst the hustle and bustle of my day, I’d inadvertently left God out of the equation, and it showed. The peace that surpassed understanding? Forgot to grab hold of it. The strength made perfect in weakness? Missed that one, too. By neglecting to connect with my Power-source, I’d trudged through my day ill-equipped and overwhelmed. 

Our “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” generation tells us to work harder, strive longer, grit your teeth and get it done, but God flips that. He says, “Slow down and come to me, and let me guide you through life’s hurdles.” God never intended for us to walk through life alone. He’s always there, watching, ready to help us move from stress to peace and fear to victory. All we need to do is abide. He’ll take care of the rest.

The 19th century theologian, E.M. Bounds, said, “The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.”

Fritters away the morning. When I neglect my prayer time, that’s what I do. Run around, expending a large amount of energy, accomplishing little. And yet, when I take the time to pause and connect with God, He stills my heart, fills me with truth and clarity, and helps me navigate through the chaos of my day.

I’ve learned when it comes to my relationship with God, the age-old phrase, “It’s about quality, not quantify” rings true. As a mom, most days I don’t have the time to lock myself in a prayer closet, but I do have snippets of time sprinkled throughout my day that can be grabbed and cherished. It’s about recognizing and catching those continual God-moments.

Most often, it’s a mind-set, a realization that God’s there, ever-present. It’s about inviting God to do life with me, whether I’m cleaning toilets or singing praises. Because I’m easily distracted by the here and now, I often use little reminders to help me pause and focus on God.

I tape notes on my steering wheel with a verse or a prayer request. This turns the countless minutes spent waiting at stoplights into cherished God-moments that add peace to the rest of my day.

I set reminders on my phone. When the alarm chimes, I pause for a minute or two to talk to God or remember a verse from my morning Bible reading.

I tape a challenge or “life-change” verse on the inside of our door so that I can pause to commit my day to God each time I leave the house.

I ask God for help turning my day over to Him, clinging to the promise of James 4:8 which says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” This reminds me that God is always there, whether I feel His presence or not.

And finally, I toss out all-or-nothing thinking that tells me prayer must be formal to be effective. When thinking of my relationship with God, I’m often reminded of my marriage. It doesn’t take much for my heart to connect with my husband. On his days off, I enjoy just having him around, whether we are talking or co-existing. It’s about doing life together and knowing we’re united.

I believe our spiritual walk can be strengthened if we view it in the same way. God loves it when we carve out time in our busy day to rest at His feet, but He longs for more. He wants to be a part of our entire day. He’s already there, watching us, loving us. The goal, then, is to recognize His presence, grab hold of it, and cherish it.

What about you? How do you find–make–time for God amidst your busy day? Notice a difference when you do? Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about how to grab hold of those God moments.

Writing–God’s Gift to Moms

The Slattery family’s been leveled by the flu, so today’s post is going to be short and sweet. Okay, so maybe just short. Today was our daughter’s first day back to school after spending nearly a week in bed and as we waited for the clock to turn, signaling it was time for her to go, she curled into my arms. Those unhurried moments when “calling in” is as easy as setting my computer aside remind me how blessed I am to stay home.

I’m not quite sure when I started writing. I’ve always enjoyed it, although I never thought much of it. But one day, a few years ago as I was happily typing on my computer, listening to our daughter and her friends chatter a few rooms away, I realized what a blessing God had provided in my keyboard. I was given the opportunity to stay home, making use of my free time, setting projects aside when time ran short in order to be fully present when my family needed me most.

May I always cherish this precious gift God has provided.