Life This Week

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Have you ever wondered if Jesus had a cold during his 33 years on earth? Apparently, the common cold has been around since ancient times, so he must have at some point, right? There is no mention of it in Scripture, but he was a baby, and a toddler, and an elementary-aged kid. He interacted with and touched many people. All before hand sanitizer. Hebrews 2 says Jesus was made fully human in every way for a little while so that he might, by the grace of God, taste death for everyone. He must have gotten colds. When I have a cold, I become very self-focused. It is as if deep down I believe no one else in the history of the world has ever suffered with a cold. At least not one like this. I also tend to withdraw from God simply because I’m so focused on my sore throat and runny nose.

My week is beginning with a cold and I’m at risk of withdrawing from God. Just a couple things I’m doing to stay connected:

I’m reading Hebrews 2. This is such a rich chapter of Scripture and reading it draws me into knowing the person of Jesus when he was here on earth. He must have had colds.

I’m asking others to pray for me. I don’t do this very often, but I don’t know why. My request is not just that the cold would go away, but also that God would reveal himself to me in the midst of it and be glorified somehow in my weakness and sickness.

I’m extending extra grace to and praying for those who are sick. So many people have such greater illnesses than a cold. I realize this. I pray that God would give me a special tenderness and dose of grace and compassion to extend to those who are really sick. I’m praying that I am able to serve someone who is sick with the love of Jesus this week.

What does your week look like?

Life This Week

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I want to be less self-centered this week. I want to be Christ-centered and other-centered. You know how sometimes you do things for other people and you view them as a departure from what you had planned or expected that day? You had a list of agenda items and that one act of service threw you off, and you feel a little less accomplished for the day? Serving that person was an interruption. I think maybe we’ve got this whole thing backwards, like the agenda is the departure and interruption, not the other way around. Perhaps “I am a servant” is the answer to that ubiquitous question, “What do you do?” rather than the answer to “What are your hobbies?”

God is very clear in Isaiah 58:6-7 that fasting from our own agendas and plans so we have room to serve is what he considers obedience. He is also very clear that what comes from this serving is freedom and light instead of the night and darkness slavery to our agendas brings.

“…[I]f you spend yourselves in behalf of
the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the
noonday.”  (Isaiah 58:10)

Here’s what I’m doing this week to refocus and stay centered on what God has for me:

I’m wearing a servant’s towel. I’m shifting my whole view so that my job is servant. In everything, what if I were servant instead of achiever/accomplisher?

I’m spending myself. I’m not a half-way kind of person typically. But, I must say that I tend to stop short of spending myself fully. I hold some back. What if I instead believed God’s word and spent myself on behalf of the hungry?

I’m singing “Overwhelmed” out loud to God. This song by Big Daddy Weave has captured me. And I’m singing it.

I’m praying for someone. I don’t mean in my alone time (which I will also do), but I mean if someone needs prayer, in faith and with their permission, I’m praying with them right then and there, whether I’ve got the right words or not.

What does your week look like?

Could you change your answer to “What do you do?”

Life This Week

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I was mesmerized yesterday as I watched waves crash over this rock on the Michigan shore. The rock has been smoothed and is no longer sharp like the others just out of the water’s reach. It made me think of God’s grace – his unmerited favor – that not only provided a way for our salvation through Christ, but also conforms us into the image of Christ. I stood with my arms outstretched, my mouth open, my eyes lifted. “Wash over me, God! Wash over me with your grace! Conform me into the image of Jesus! Smooth out my edges. Wash over me!” To be washed, we need to be near the water. Here’s what I’m doing to stay near this week:

I’m praying Psalm 42:1-2. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Wash over me, God! Wash over me!

I’m remembering who God is. I’m reading a section of Psalm 104 each day. Monday: 104:1-4; Tuesday: 104:5-9; Wednesday: 104:10-13; Thursday: 104:14-18; Friday: 104:19-23; Saturday: 104:24-27; Sunday: 104:28-35.

I’m reminding myself what Jesus says of me, because I believe in him. I am free. I have the Spirit within me. I am being transformed into the image of Christ. (John 7:37-39; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

What does your week look like?

How are you staying near to God?

Life This Week

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This past Thursday and Friday, I attended the Global Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Community Church. The speakers were unmatched and my brain feels a little like it might explode from all the teaching. My takeaways were many, but the two that stood out the most were the need we all have to be seen and connected. I know I do. When I am seen and connected, I feel like I can do anything. I can overcome; I can love; I can commit; I can be strong and courageous. This got me thinking, though, about how sometimes I don’t see people and choose not to connect because I’m busy or distracted or just not paying attention. Jesus sees and chooses to connect. Just look at John 4. Here’s what I’m doing this week:

I’m seeing people. I know there are people I run into throughout my day who my eyes skim over. They are there, but I don’t see them. Not every person. Not every day. But still. I’m praying I will have the ability and patience and wherewithal to see, really see, every person I encounter this week.

I’m expecting to encounter Jesus in each person. I read the story of a man named Alphonsus Rodriguez, who was the doorkeeper at a Jesuit college. Each time he went to answer the door for any caller, he would say, “I’m coming, Lord,” and greeted each person with the same smile with which he would have greeted Jesus. What if I did this with each person I meet?

I’m praying for the people I know who don’t know Jesus. The thing about knowing Jesus is that I know I am seen. I am like the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus can tell me everything I have ever done. But, he does not do it to accuse and condemn. He does it to heal and bring me into wholeness. I am praying that the people I know and love who feel anonymous, disconnected, and alone would be drawn by Jesus, the one who knows them and has known them since before they ever came to be.

What does your week look like?

Are there people you could see?

Life This Week

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Yesterday, I got rear ended in my car for the second time in two weeks.  This time, I was on the highway with my daughter and dog.  We are not injured, but now the car is no longer drivable.  The police came, a tow truck came, and my dad and stepmom came to give us their car to use for the week.  It all turned out and life will go on.  A question keeps coming into my brain: how can this same accident happen twice in two weeks?  I want to figure out the meaning, the reason, the lesson, the opportunity.  It would all be a little easier if the accidents were my fault.  Then, I could come up with an answer.  But, this is one question (among many) to which I really just don’t know the answer.  I just don’t know.  I have a feeling, I will carry this “I don’t know” into my week whether I intend to or not.  So, I’ll intend to.  Here’s what I’m doing this week.

I’m releasing my “I don’t knows” to God.  There are so many things I don’t know, though I act like and think like I know more than I do most of the time.  I don’t knows make me nervous, though.  What’s ahead?  I don’t know.  What’s next?  I don’t know.  Who will be there?  I don’t know.  What will happen?  I don’t know.  This week, I’m going to try a little experiment: when I don’t know something, I’ll just acknowledge it and release it to God, who does know.  I wonder if this might create some space in my heart and mind.

I’m thanking God for his protection.  The thing about car accidents and illnesses that happen to us is that we don’t know they are coming, what the impact will be, or how things will turn out.  This time, all is well and I’m thankful God protected me and my daughter.

I’m resting in God’s words in Isaiah 55:9-10:  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

 What does your week look like?

Life This Week

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My daughter, Jamie, went on a serving trip to St. Louis last week with a small group of other kids and leaders that repainted and repaired two houses of families in need.  I heard about different aspects of the trip from Jamie – what the families were like, making new friendships, allergies, experiencing God through serving, and the long drive home.  What struck me most, though, was something one of the leaders said about her:  “Jamie was there to serve.  She constantly asked what more she could do, how she could help.”  I learn so much from this 13-year old.  I want to model this servant spirit in my life and so, here’s what I’m doing this week:

I’m entering into John 13:1-17.  In this passage, we are told of Jesus washing his disciples feet.  When he finished, he said: “Do you understand what I have done for you?  You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  I want to enter into this passage, picturing Jesus on his knees, his robe brushing the floor, one hand picking up a dirty, dust-covered, calloused foot, and the other hand rubbing off the grime with the water.  What intimacy and humility these moments must have held as the creator of all things knelt and washed those he came to save.

I’m serving from bent knees.  So often, I serve from a position of power.  I have something that the person I am serving does not have.  I give food to someone who has no food.  I give legal advice to a person who is not a lawyer.  These are not bad things to provide, of course, but how often do I serve from a position of humility?  I’m noticing this week if there are ways of service I shy away from because they require too much intimacy or humility and then I’m praying for strength to serve in those ways.

I’m asking: “What is needed here?”  I think I ask: “What am I good at?” much more than “What is needed here?”  I think I look for serving opportunities in which I can be at my best instead of looking at the need and serving even when I am at my least.  I must miss opportunities to serve this way.  Jesus’ gifts were more aligned with teaching and healing.  But he kneeled and washed other men’s feet because that was what was needed and he was not too proud to serve in the way that was needed.

What does your week look like?

Do you serve from bent knees?    

Life This Week

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Yesterday, I was rear ended in my car pretty hard while stopped at a red light.  I am generally fine, just a sore neck.  This experience reminded me, though, of my vulnerability, and how you could run out to the store for a taco dinner kit and never come home.  I’m taking an extra dose of life into this week.  My desire is to be open, loving, and alive.

I’m expecting to encounter God every day.  I have great expectation that I will encounter God if my heart, eyes, and hands are open, instead of grasping and scared.  I’m entering each day with a prayer for openness to whatever God might have for me to see, taste, feel, or experience good or bad so that I can encounter him.  I know he is able to do immeasurably more than I could ask or even imagine.  (Ephesians 3:20)

I’m being a peacemaker.  Last week, the verdict in the Zimmerman trial stirred up racial tension that constantly exists below the surface.  Many of the people on my Facebook feed made comments that were racist and claimed to know the truth about what happened though they had not been at the incident or the trial.  I don’t want to be someone who stirs up dissension and hatred.  I want to be a peacemaker, one who reaches across racial divides in Christ-like kindness, one who builds bridges, and one who seeks understanding.  Jesus called these blessed: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”  (Matt 5: 9)

I’m not buying into the “single story” about anyone.  Yesterday, I watched the TED Talk called The Danger of the Single Story, by a Nigerian novelist named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  She tells of the dangers of hearing a single story about a people – “People in Africa are poor and dying of AIDS” – and making it the only story.  The best illustration of her point was made when she described a time when a young American woman, who had read one of Adichie’s novels, expressed her sympathy that men in Nigeria beat their wives.  Adichie’s response was to express her sympathy, based on reading American Psycho, that American men are psychopath serial killers.  Every people group, every person has a multi-story narrative.  I know I do.  But we reduce people to a single story all the time, sometimes consciously, sometimes not.  In doing so, we demean them.  Jesus never bought into the single story about anyone; he saw the whole.  I want to be made aware this week of the ways I seek to impose a single story on people and then I want to reject it in favor of learning the full story.

I’m turning on my Spirit Fire App.  I need God’s word to infuse every aspect of my day or I forget who he is, what he is capable of, and who I am.  Really, I do.  I found this phone app called Spirit Fire and I can set it to send verses of Scripture to me throughout my day.  It has different  categories of verses: Faith & Hope, Finance, In Christ, Inspiration, and Relationships.  The first day I used it, it sent me:  1 Corin 3:16 at 8:44 a.m.; Gal 5:22-24 at 10:47 a.m.; Rom 5:17 at 1:17 p.m.; 1 Corin 12:27 at 3:31 p.m.; and 1 Cor 15:49 at 5:56 p.m.  I’m using it all week to keep me grounded in truth throughout the day.

What does your week look like?

Are your hands gripped tight?  Can you open them, maybe just a little?

Life This Week

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Last week was a little strange because my daughter was in London all week; I was in Louisiana.  She returns home today.  I’ve missed her so much, but I have cherished her text messages with multiple exclamation points following all the things she has experienced while traveling.  I can’t wait to hug and kiss her, listen to her stories, and be in her presence again.  I have been thinking about what I reflect to her through my behavior and practices.  And in that vein, here is my plan for the week:

I’m forgoing the need to be right.  Right before my daughter left for London, she and I were having a debate about whether one of her cousins lived in Paris or New Orleans.  I believed Paris, she said it was New Orleans.  I knew I was right and when we were able to verify it, I was.  And, it was important to me.  Later, I reflected on this and wondered why I wanted to be right so badly.  What difference did it make?  In me, the need to be right comes from an unhealthy, unloving place.  Usually, it stems from wanting to be in control, to exert power over someone else, or to prove my value.  So much better to be wise and loving.  I’m praying for wisdom and the strength to be loving instead of right.

I’m paying attention to what I’m feeding myself. “A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about the tragedy on September 11.  He said, ‘I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart.  One wolf is vengeful, angry, and violent.  The other one is loving and compassionate.’  The grandson asked, ‘Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?’  The grandfather answered, ‘The one I feed.’”  (Contemplation in Action, Richard Rohr and friends)  This story deeply resonated in me.  Have you noticed how so many news events turn into vitriolic polarizing screaming matches?  There is so little room for love and grace.  We prefer retribution to restoration.  And there is so much food for that wolf.  I want to bring love and compassion only, always.  So, I’m praying God increases my ability to love and show compassion, and I’m reading books, listening to music, and watching shows or movies that feed love and increase my compassion.

I’m noticing where I seek praise from people.  In Romans 2, Paul says, “a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”  (Romans 2:29b)  I mostly seek praise from other people.  I’m praying God will continue to change my heart and my desires so that I seek his praise alone.

I’m reading a Psalm before bed instead of email and Facebook.  I fall asleep in prayer, sleep peacefully, and wake up more refreshed when I read Scripture right before bed.  When I read Facebook or emails before bed, I am anxious and worried about the next day’s tasks.  Reading any Scripture is good, but I find Psalms best because they are self-contained, whereas a passage from Samuel or Hebrews is hard to just jump into in the middle.

What does your week look like?

What are you reflecting to those around you?

From whom are you seeking praise most?

Life This Week

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Trust and thankfulness.  Small words, difficult practices.  Trust means placing confidence in the integrity, strength, ability or surety of a person or thing.  Thankfulness means being grateful or appreciative.  There is an object to both of these practices.  We trust in something or someone and are thankful to something or someone.  Scripture is full of these two topics, maybe because they are both so hard.  How often I place my trust in things or people other than God!  How frequently I am looking to the next moment and forgetting to be thankful for the one I’m experiencing!  I’m spending some time this week cultivating and practicing trust and thankfulness.  Here’s how:

I’m asking for help.  I’m praying this simple prayer: Father in heaven, please cultivate in me a thankful heart that trusts you in every moment and every experience.  Help me have eyes that see all the ways you love me and a mouth that remembers to thank you.  Remind me that you are trustworthy, and when I place my trust in you, I find peace.

I’m repeating this to myself:  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  (Proverbs 3:5)  I am constantly leaning on my own understanding, like 90% of the time.  I’m going to try to loosen my grip.  I don’t understand that much, after all.

I’m saying or writing thankful.  There is something quite passive about “being thankful.”  I am generally thankful.  But being generally thankful somehow prevents me from being specifically thankful.  What I mean is that I am actually more full of thanks (and joy!) when I name the thing or person for which I am thankful.  The other night I was driving home from a hectic evening and Miles Davis was playing.  In my car, I said: “God, thank you for Miles Davis and this part right here of So What.”  Really, try it.  Name it.

I’m speaking the name of Jesus.  When I feel anxious, I’m going to notice, and speak Jesus’ name into the moment, trusting him with all my heart and reminding myself that my hope is not in anything but him.  When I feel rushed, I’m going to notice, and speak Jesus’ name into the moment, slowing down and thanking him for the way he is loving me right then and there.

What’s your week look like?

Are you trusting God, or something else?

Can you express your thanks for each moment?

Life This Week

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For many of us, this week includes at least a couple days off work and some additional family time, which means things can get a little rocky.  It is so easy to let go of our time with God in favor of sleeping in, staying up late, and crashing after long days in the sun.  These are days of watermelon juice running down kids’ faces, beanbag toss, and sunsets.  It will be hard to set time aside to read Scripture and pray.  Here’s what I’m doing to stay connected with God this week:

I’m saying thanks when I wake up each morning.  When friends and family are staying with me, or I with them, time before I get out of bed is precious alone time.  So, when I awake, I’m saying thanks to God for a new breath, new mercies, and a new day.

I’m reading a Psalm each night.  When I finally fall into bed after long, full days, I often struggle with words to say to God to thank him for all he has revealed that day in creation, my daughter’s laugh, and conversations with close friends.  This week, each day I’ll use David’s words of praise in the Psalms, starting with Psalm 145 on Monday, Psalm 146 on Tuesday, and so on, through Psalm 150 on Saturday and Sunday (it’s worth reading twice!).

I’m forgiving and asking forgiveness.  Another thing that comes with concentrated family or friend time is the possibility for hurts and offense.  We get tired and cranky, impatient and short-fused.  I’m forgiving any of these as soon as I am able and asking for forgiveness as soon as I realize I’ve caused hurt.

I’m not letting my expectations interfere.  I recently heard someone say that we often let our expectations interfere with what God wants us to experience.  I’m an optimist and so I often think: this will be the greatest vacation we’ve ever had!  Or, this dinner will be the best we’ve ever tasted!  And then it rains or the propane tank runs out of fuel.  At first, these little mishaps threaten to trample on any fun we might have had.  But the rain allows slow, long conversations that were not otherwise possible and running out of propane means we go out for pizza, don’t have to clean up the dishes, and laugh harder than we have together in ages.  I’m looking at any frustration of my expectations as a gift to experience something better.

What are your plans this week?