The Next Level

In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character keeps reliving the same day over and over again. He tries everything to break the cycle, but until he learns what he was meant to learn he is stuck repeating the same things over and over again. While we may not actually repeat the same exact day again and again, I bet most of us could say we have felt stuck in some way and unable to get to the next level.

When I need a break from work, I play a computer game. I had been playing the same level for what seemed like forever when I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before: a tool. When I used that tool, I was able to complete the round and move on to the next challenge. The harder the level, the more rewards you collect. I find the same thing true in my spiritual walk. As I try to grow and mature, I find myself stuck only to find that the tools I needed were there all along.

This week I have been reading two devotional books, one for writers and one on giving your dreams to God. Thursday they both had the same general message from two different angles about committing your work to the Lord. Then I listened to a podcast that talked about working from a place of rest. When I hear the same ideas or verses of scripture coming from multiple places, I have learned to take note. Here’s what I learned:

First, if we want to move to the next level spiritually, we have to do the work, but not just any work.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

While works won’t save us, there is still work to be done. This verse points out that God already had a plan for our lives, a work we were designed to do. When we fall in line with God and pick up his yoke, we find a satisfaction and enjoyment that exceeds anything we dreamed of even when the going is difficult or the work seems mundane.

Once we find the work God has us to do, we have to commit it to God:

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:5

Psalms 37:5

Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel. We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.

Psalms 20:4-5

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Proverbs 16:3

When you dedicate your dreams to God, you have to trust Him and let go. It sounds simple and easy, but it’s not. We humans have a hard time trusting and letting go. He is a good Father who only wants the best for His children, so He is trustworthy. When we do let go, God always gives back more than we ever dreamed. Too often we try to hedge God in with our small ideas when He has much bigger things planned.

When we have committed it to God, then we can work from a place of rest.

For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.

Isaiah 30:15

When we let God set our boundaries, we can do the work that we were called to do but at a sustainable pace. Too often we allow the world to set the pace, one which is not healthy or meaningful. They call it a rat race for a reason. If we will let God show us which opportunities to take and which ones to let go, we can work from a place of rest knowing we are doing His will.

Then, we can look at each day as a chance to start fresh. Unlike the movie, we don’t have to repeat the same level. We can take the next step in our journey, the next level: we just need to remember:

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalms 118:24

So, let’s take each day one day at a time. If nothing else, the last year taught us that while it’s good to make plans, those plans can change. When we let God have the reins and lead the way, we know we will be going in the right direction and can just enjoy the ride. We can rejoice and be glad.

When you feel overwhelmed by your To-Do List, take a step back and lift it up to the Lord. Ask Him to show you what He wants you to do. You may find that some tasks need to come off of the list, or you may find that God makes a way for everything to get done. Either way, the road is a lot smoother when we take up His yoke instead of dragging everything by ourselves. He wants to give us the life of rest we truly long for if we will only let Him.

Is there something God wants to take off of your To-Do list?

Our Only Hope

Near the beginning of the original Star Wars movie, Luke Skywalker finds a message from Princess Leia in which she states their dire situation and begs for Obi Wan Kenobi’s help. She ends it by saying, “You’re our only hope.” Ironically, it is actually Luke Skywalker who becomes the hero along with a motley crew and not Ben who saves the day. Today we face our own situations and are looking for a hero to save us. Unfortunately, we too are looking to the wrong hero.

I started a project I call 40 Days of Hope (#MyHopeNotebook) in which I searched out 40 scriptures on Hope. Each day I draw one, hand write the scriptures, journal and post a picture. I think what the world needs right now is hope; however, they keep looking for it in all the wrong places. The following are the scriptures I drew for the first 8 days:

Day 1

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Colossians 1:27

Day 2

10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:10-11

Day 3

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

Titus 1:2

Day 4

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

Psalms 16:9

Day 5

For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.

Proverbs 23:18

Day 6

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

Day 7

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

Hebrews 10:23

Day 8

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.

Psalms 130:5-8

If you notice, not one time did God say trust in political leaders, political parties, or vaccines although He may use them at times. He says trust in Him, hope in Him, have faith in Him. He has a plan for you that no one can change. We just have to wait for Him to work. It is often easier to say than to do, so maybe you should take a moment and write some of these verses out yourself and post them around the house or make your own notebook. Each time you feel stressed or hopeless take it out and meditate on the verses. When we shift our focus in the right direction, everything else will fall into place in His time.

In the meantime, just remember: Our hope does not come from masks or vaccines; it does not come from political leaders or political parties. Our hope comes from God and God alone.

Flowers out of Season

When Tropical Storm Zeta descended on my house in the wee hours of a Thursday morning, I was awakened by sudden silence. I realized the power had gone out, shutting off my diffuser, fan, and nightlight. It was dark and very quiet in the house, but outside was a different story. The wind howled and yanked at the plastic covering some of my windows. Every time I would start to relax it would start again. After several hours, the storm abated enough that I drifted back off to sleep. I woke up the next morning still without power, but the house was intact, so I was grateful and got ready for work by flashlight. When I went out to the car, I saw these lilies and was reminded of God’s goodness.

Earlier in the summer some friends and I were trying to get my yard under control. Weeds had overtaken my flower bed. In the process of cutting down tall weeds with a Weed Eater, some of my lilies were mown down, too. I was sad but hopeful they would return in the spring. That morning not only had the lilies miraculously returned, they were also blooming in all their splendor totally out of season. God was kind enough not to make me wait; He sent me flowers as a reminder that He was listening to my prayers and was able to answer.

So, as the season for thanksgiving approaches, let us remember that it is always the season for thanksgiving. No matter what the situation, no matter what the problem, God is always the answer and no one else.

21 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing. 23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. 25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. 28 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

Psalms 107:21-30

No matter what kind of storm we are facing outside, we can have a haven of rest inside when we trust in the goodness of God. When we cry unto the Lord in our trouble, He will bring us out of our distresses and into our desired haven. Above all that, sometimes He sends us flowers out of season just to show us:

 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Matthew 19:26

Rest

If I had to choose one word as a theme this week, it would be rest. First of all, I could really use a little, but couldn’t we all? Beyond that, I kept bumping into the word everywhere I turned. Early in the week, I listened to a podcast from Bonnie Gray, and she was talking about taking time to rest and reset. Then, I received a card in the mail with the same scripture:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

This morning my Bible reading was from Joshua 11 and the last verse jumped out at me:

So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.

(Joshua 11:23)

The last line resonated with me: “And the land rested from war.”

I don’t know about you, but I think we all could use a little rest from war. 2020 has turned out to be a marathon for battling on multiple fronts. Every time we turn around some new “threat” has materialized out of the mist, another giant to slay. Yet, Jesus called everyone who was “heavy laden” to come to him, and He would give them rest. How does that work?

First, you have to actually come to Jesus. In other words, you have to stop and spend time with the Lord. I think the phrase quiet time is even more important these days. We need to take time to be still and quiet; we need to block out the world and allow the peace that passes understanding to settle on us (Philippians 4:7).

Another thing we can do is to actually do less. Sometimes we overbook our schedules by trying to do everything. In the podcast I mentioned earlier, Bonnie Gray discussed letting go of being busy. In a society that values productivity, we can be tricked into thinking that a busy schedule means we are being productive. In fact, the opposite may be true. We may be busy but not really accomplishing anything of importance.

Finally, we need to take time to do things that we enjoy. Strike that. We need to schedule time to do things that we enjoy. Coffee (or tea) breaks were created for a reason. We need breaks from the daily grind for physical and mental health, not to mention our spiritual health. Do something fun. Do something silly. Do nothing.

I know when I start the day with a quiet time, and then end the day with a little quiet time I feel more rested and ready to do battle even in 2020, especially in 2020. I also know that taking time to knit or read a good book also lifts my mood and my energy. So, sit a spell, sip some tea, pet a cat (or dog), and enjoy the moment. Besides, your cell phone could probably use some alone time, too.

Recharge

Wings Like Eagles

I am thankful for two days in a row off from work for Thanksgiving. It has given me a chance to catch up on cleaning and working on some projects for Christmas, but it also has given me a chance to recharge. I got to sleep past daylight and to just sit on the couch with my cats without thinking about what needed to be done next. Since I work part-time in retail, we have been working every afternoon to get ready for the busy season, so I have come home later than usual each day for the last few weeks and my batteries were getting low.

BatteriesBatteries have a limited amount of energy and will eventually run out of power if they are not recharged. We have a multitude of electronic devices that run on batteries these days, and they all come with a cord to plug into a power source in order to recharge them, sometimes on a daily basis. The other day I was working at my computer and the screen got dim. After several minutes, a warning came up about low battery. I had to stop and plug the computer into the outlet to recharge the battery. The screen was immediately brighter. The same is true for humans. When we recharge our batteries, we work better, both physically and spiritually.

When we feel like we are lagging spiritually like the screen on my computer, it helps to stop and recharge our batteries. The Holy Spirit is our link to the ultimate power source. We just have to plug in to the source through prayer, reading the Bible, or just taking a moment to worship the Lord. Ephesians 3:16 says, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.”All we have to do is take the time to plug into the power source.outlet

Some days may require plugging in multiple times, but thankfully there are no blackouts with this power source. While everything in the earthly sphere is subject to break down and decay, God’s power is infinite. When we are weak, He is strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” We will never need an alternate power source.

In order to recharge, we need only rely on the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” When we give Him all our cares and burdens, He lightens our load so that we can rest in His strength.  So, take a moment and wait on the Lord, and He will recharge your batteries so that you can soar with the eagles.

 

Not My Battle

Money Troubles

On more than one occasion in my life, I have come to a problem where I couldn’t see a solution. I have looked at a stack of bills and a list of income and thought that will never work. There is no way to stretch the money to cover all of that. I would worry and fret and try to think of ways to expand my income or reduce the bills, but it never worked. Eventually, I would remember to pray. Usually I had to get to the point where I honestly said, “Lord, You’re the only one who can do this because there is no human way possible. I leave it up to you.” Then the answer would come and everything would get paid and always in a way I had never imagined. It was a God thing.

These kinds of situations show up as frequently in the Bible as they do in my life. For example, Judah was about to be attacked by a vast army, and the king was afraid, so he sent for a word from God. In 2 Chronicles 20 a prophet replies, “15 And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s…17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.” The people stopped and worshiped God, and in the meantime, their enemies killed each other without them lifting a finger.

Notice the words “…for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” As humans, we are prone to be independent and control freaks, but God calls us to depend on Him. Sometimes, or quite often, He has to put us in situations where we realize our need for Him; otherwise, we are lulled into a false sense of security. We think, “I got this.” In reality everything we have we owe to God, including our very lives. He is the one who is in control.

Battles is the LordsThe worry will get you nowhere. Luke chapter 12:25-26 says, “ 25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit 26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?” Worry accomplishes nothing except raising your blood pressure. It doesn’t solve anything and makes your life miserable. John 10:10 says, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The enemy wants you to be scared and to steal your joy, but Christ came so we could live the abundant life.

So, the next time you face a situation or a problem start with prayer instead of making it a last ditch effort. Relax and let the Lord fight the battle. Do your part in being obedient and then watch to see what He will do. Take a moment and listen to some advice from a man who knew about seemingly hopeless situations:

The Battle’s Not Mine by The Freemans

 

 

 

De-cluttering

My devotional this morning was from Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray. At the end of each devotional, she gives ideas on how to practice soul care and includes scientific studies that back up her suggestions. Today the suggestion was on decluttering and how clutter causes increases in cortisol, a stress hormone, while decreases in clutter reduced the levels of cortisol. She suggesting purging what does not spark joy.

Marie Kondo offers the same advice in her Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Her show tries to help people get rid of clutter and organize their home. Some critics claim that asking the question does it spark joy is only enabling hoarders to hold on to their piles of stuff. However, her show has helped people significantly reduce clutter and create a more restful and organized living space. Her concept is good even if people twist it to fit their own agendas.

In Exodus 16, God provided the Israelites with manna every day. There was always just enough, never too much or too little. No matter how much they gathered, there was always just enough for the day ahead. This is still true today. God promises to give us what we need for this day, no more, no less. Most people hoard out of fear or greed, neither reason is healthy. Yes, we should be responsible and work, but worrying and piling up possessions out of fear only leaves us tired and unsatisfied. We need to trust the daily manna from God, be obedient today, and trust God to work out the details. Don’t be enslaved by things.

So, take a moment today and do some de-cluttering. I think we need it at a physical, mental and spiritual level. When you take a moment to de-clutter one small corner of your home, you free yourself on all levels because you have one less thing to think about, you have more space to breathe, and it helps you to relax so that you can focus your mind and spirit because what good is having “stuff” if you never use it? If you know someone who needs something you aren’t using, give it to them. It will free you, give you a sense of satisfaction that you were able to help someone, and it will bless the person you give it to.

Now pardon me, if you will, I have to go follow my own advice…there is a small closet crammed with clothes that I can’t wear that need to bless someone else and free up some breathing space for me. #thebonniegray #whispersofrest

Rest

In today’s society REST is a four-letter word. Everybody, and every body, needs it, but no one wants to admit they took it. People almost feel the need to apologize for taking time off. My students use a resource in class, an article titled “Toxic Work World” by Anne Marie Slaughter in The New York Times, which speaks to this issue. It talks about a work culture that requires more and more time at work even if it is not quality work in order to not only succeed, but sometimes to even keep your job. It is a culture that frowns on taking vacation days. If there is a family emergency, many people are afraid to take off time to take care of things in fear of losing their jobs. We have taken competition to an extreme level to the point stress and anxiety are at epidemic levels. What is to be done?

Isaiah 30:15 says, “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; in returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.”

A writer pointed out that people have written sermons and devotionals by the thousands on the subject of returning or repentance, but very few talk about the second part: “In returning and rest shall ye be saved.”Even God took a day off. On the seventh day he rested. We even take the Sabbath as a day to be busy, running from one thing to another.

We need to take time to rest at the feet of Jesus, like Mary, and just soak up His presence. We need to draw from the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to reflect on Our Father’s blessings.

The Christian walk is a journey, not a competition. Everyone who completes the race is a winner, but, like any journey, we need to take breaks along the way to sleep, to eat, and to rest. Otherwise, we will run out of fuel and be forced to stand still. So, take time to rest…mentally, physically, and spiritually. Ask God and he will give you rest for your soul. Then, you will be prepared to be his example in a world of people who long for what He has to offer.