Category: Practices (page 1 of 24)

5 Important Questions to Ask About Boundaries

“I often can’t get away from work til around 8:00.”

“I make work calls on my 45 minute commute to the office.”

“I’m a stay-at-home mom because I want to invest time in my kids while they are young, but I’m in so many important volunteer positions that I’m exhausted and pre-occupied with all I have to do even when I’m with my kids.”

“I’ve been up til midnight the past few nights trying to get my work load under control.”

“If I go out of town or take a break on the weekend, I’m swamped when I get back. It’s not worth it.”

These are all statements I’ve heard recently.

So many of my millennial friends are in seasons of high stress, high demand, and long work hours. The discipline of setting boundaries while trying to establish a career is tough, and scary.

I know there is no silver bullet, but this ties into my post from Monday on your “The Hardest ‘Yes’ of Your Day”.

What do you have the courage to say “no” to?

Before anything, maybe journal about what values are most important to you.

Family? Faith Community? Spiritual Growth? Balance? Volunteerism? Peace?

Is it possible to prioritize these values within the career you have? Do you have clear expectations and boundaries built into your job description?

“You get what you tolerate.” Henry Cloud

Here are a few questions to consider asking yourself as you are making decisions:

  1. If I say “yes” to this request, what will I need to say “no” to? What will I need to sacrifice? Who will I be cheating?

2. Does saying yes to this (deadline, project, staying late..) tap into an unhealthy sense of “need to be needed” or pride? (Ouch! I know this is an important one from experience!)

3.  Who might benefit from me sharing this opportunity or delegating this task?

4. Am I letting urgent things crowd out the important things in my life?

 

5. Who am I coaching or mentoring on a daily basis so that not everything will be dependent on me? 

Whether you’re a boss or not, there are some great strategies here:

The One Thing All Great Bosses Do Well

Remember, your true self will never change. You are beloved child of God with nothing to prove. Your false self is based on titles, paychecks, and awards that will come and go.

At the end of the day may we, like Jesus, be able to say:

 I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to. John 17:4

The Hardest Yes of Your Day

“It never gets any easier. There will always be something ‘urgent’ or ‘sparkly’ to distract you.”  This was a wise word from a mentor. She encouraged me, when my girls were toddlers, to put into practice, “chair time” – a daily meeting with the Lord.

Yes, in some ways it does get easier physically. In different seasons of life you may not have to hide in the bathroom to get alone time, with your “chair” as the toilet seat. And you may not be as sleep deprived. But emotionally?  Spiritually? Not so much.

What would Satan like more than to keep us from the priority of reflecting on God’s Word, opening ourselves to His power and presence?

We would never say it this way, but I think the way Satan distracts us most often is to get us thinking we are indispensable.

The world may stop spinning if I don’t get this email out, or if I don’t get into work early, or get this call made, or this thing mailed or this insightful tweet posted… I am soooo important!

We frantically commute and call and consult while God calmly causes the sun to rise each morning.

When we meet with God early, the fragrance of Him lingers throughout our day.

We may be reminded to pause and ask Him for wisdom when making a decision.

We may think to breathe in His name when we are impatient.

We may look for the imago dei in the co-worker who gets on our nerves.

Most of all, when we make time with God our most important priority it strengthens our ability to put boundaries in all areas of our life.

In order to say “no” to the things that are draining life from us, the things that are lowering our standards, the things that are drawing us away from our best self,  we must first say “Yes!” to chair time with God.

Where’s your “chair”?  This morning I texted a young friend at 5:45, thinking she would just get the text when she woke up, but instead she responded right away with this picture 🙂 She was having her chair time.

If you want a couple of resources for chair time, check out:

Pray as you Go

First 5

Why it’s Important to Make Your Bed

If you’ve read this blog for any time at all, you know I am captivated by the idea of “small things”. I’ve always thought of this in the sense of doing small acts of service, or giving words of encouragement – the widow of Zarephath showing up with her tiny bit of flour and oil, or Jesus choosing dropouts for disciples, or Namaan dipping in the water – things that seem counter to the world’s economy.

But recently I heard a sermon, and I’ve been thinking of Zechariah 4:10 differently. It brought to mind a story from a couple years ago when, during a commencement speech at the University of Texas, the commander of the forces that organized the raid to kill Osama bin Laden told the graduates:

The U.S. Navy Admiral went on to say:

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. 

Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” 

Instead of thinking about “small things” as stewardship or service, I’ve been thinking of it as the small commitments to disciplines that God can use to equip us or train us, having exponential impact.

Jeff Manion writes,

“Greatness is rarely achieved by doing great things, but by doing good things repeatedly” 

For Daniel, “making his bed” was the discipline of refusing to eat the royal food.

Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel resolved  not to defile himself with the royal food and wine…”

On the surface this discipline might just seem dumb. Who doesn’t like Lou Malnati’s pizza and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream? But this wasn’t just about being healthy. It was about not eating food that had been sacrificed to idols. For Daniel, this discipline reminded him who was the most powerful in his life and it wasn’t the king.

For David, “making his bed” was the discipline (long before Goliath) of faithfully remaining – guarding stinky, muddy sheep while his brothers were off doing the fun stuff fighting the bad guys. While pursuing this unseen discipline God was preparing him for more.

1 Samuel 17:37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

My friends inspire me in this area of discipline.

For one who has just endured a painful break-up, “making his bed” has meant the discipline of not drinking at all for a time because he recognizes his temptation to numb with alcohol in this season.

For another friend, Mycah, “making her bed” is the discipline of Sabbathing.  And the thing that strikes me about her, is that it didn’t start with the “small thing” of Sabbath. It started with the smaller discipline of not using social media on Fridays, and then not working on Fridays, and then turning her phone off from Thursday night to Saturday morning.

Still another friend talked to me about “making her bed” as the discipline of gratitude in a season of hard circumstances.

We don’t “make our bed” in order to gain God’s attention or favor. He’s crazy about us, messy bed and all.  Grace, grace, and more grace is the bedrock of our relationship with Him! Instead, I like Doug Rumford’s definition of discipline:

“A means to develop soul memory for reflexive spiritual responsiveness.”

What are the small disciplines God wants to use to train you? Are there ways you see that physical discipline impacts spiritual discipline?

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

 

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5 Words that Made me Stop

I’m a “J” on the Myers Briggs. That means I like quick decision-making and closure. I’m impulsive. A “jump first, ask questions later” kind of girl. Can anyone relate?

So a few weeks ago when I sensed a prompting (that I thought was from God), I was ready to act on it. Like immediately.

This nudge involved speaking a loving question into a friend’s life, but it was about a painful subject .

And then, this morning, before I did anything (this is one reason why morning quiet time is crucial for me! :)) I read 2 Samuel 2:1 “David inquired of the Lord”. The sentence sounded familiar so I checked in Bible Gateway. Sure enough I had read a version of  that same phrase 9 times about David! But this morning I didn’t just read it, I heard it as an additional reminder to me from God.

These 5 words stopped me in my tracks.

Inquiring of the Lord is a check-in with our divine Mentor of sorts. For me it meant praying about my prompting. “Lord this is what I THINK you want me to do. Will you confirm it in my spirit if so? Will you give me Your words if it is Your will?” And then I was still. (Always VERY hard for me!)

The way the Lord answered was to encourage me to put myself in my friend’s place.

Are the words you feel prompted to speak true? Yes.

Would they feel helpful or life-giving to you if you were in her place? Yes.

Are they necessary? No, they are not necessary I guess. I’m sure You, Lord, could find another way to talk to her, but You tapped me, and You remind me “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Eph. 4:25)

After “inquiring of the Lord” and really trying to listen for His response, I prayerfully wrote a note to my friend. Thankfully she received it with gratitude and reflection.

However, there have been times when I thought I was responding to a prompting, only to be blasted by the receiver, causing me to slink away like a scolded puppy. There have been other times when I haven’t spoken up in spite of a prompting and have regretted it as I watched a friend walk into ruin.

Bottom line? I think all we can do is our part – be attentive to the Holy Spirit and carefully inquire of the Lord before we speak. Then have the courage to either speak up or keep our mouths shut with courage as He leads us.

What has your experience been with nudges from the Holy Spirit?

 

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When God’s Answer to Prayer Looks Different Than we Expect

It seems like infertility comes up in at least half of the conversations I’m a part.

Or, someone mourns the death of a dream – what feels like unanswered prayer.

I’ve never dealt with infertility personally. I can’t begin to understand the depth of pain, confusion, and frustration that couples experience. But I do know what the death of a dream feels like. I can recognize the expressions of weariness, longing, and “what’s wrong with me that God doesn’t answer this prayer that I feel like is coming from a pure place?”

I have godly, faithful friends who have prayerfully entered into IVF or adoption. They have dreams, but open hands, desiring to be responsive to God’s leading. They do their part. They are responsible. They read and ask questions and look at finances and trust God. They pray for guidance and clear direction and step forward in faith.

And then, and then…. There’s no pregnancy, or no adoption match, or the adopted child endangers the rest of the family and has to be released to a different home.

And my friends are left asking, “Whaaat? God we trusted You!!! We thought we were following your leading!!!! Where did we go wrong?  A + B is supposed to = C! What is wrong with OUR MATH? Don’t you love us? Aren’t you a good God? We thought you were!”

It saddens me when I see people grieving and at the same time, beating themselves up for “Reading God wrong.”

As followers of Jesus we really want to be honest about the desires of our hearts. We also really want God’s direction and want to submit to His will that may look different than ours.

Many years ago, when John and I had been married for a few years and were serving a church in a suburb of Chicago, we began to feel that our time there was coming to a close. We prayed and began to be open to churches that would write John asking him to consider being their pastor.

When I reflect on this time, I think we were as sincere in seeking God’s will as we possibly could be. Our motives were both as pure and as selfish as human motives can be.

We sought counsel from other wise believers. We asked questions. We thought we were listening well, but who knows.

We had interviews with several churches over time and ended up sensing a called to Washington D.C. where John would be the executive associate pastor at a large church. We prayed a LOT about this.

The senior pastor and his wife were godly leaders who would mentor us and became close friends. But other than that, NOTHING was as we expected. NOTHING was easy.

We moved away from our home and family for the first time.

We had no money and moved to the city with the highest cost of living at the time.

I went 8 months pregnant with our second child (the first – Katy – only 19 months old).

We knew no one and moved to a fast-paced, power-obsessed, transient community.

The church, in an urban area drew people from a wide radius averaging 30 minutes away, so we didn’t see the people from our faith community in our neighborhood during the week.

Here’s the thing… We prayed like crazy, but the circumstances didn’t change during the years we lived in D.C. It was just HARD. And it left us questioning, “Did we MISS something, Lord? Is THIS hard thing really Your will?”

I’ll certainly have questions when I get to heaven, but in the meantime, here’s what I see:

  • Circumstances may be hard, but God is still faithful. Rest in His character more than you wrestle with your circumstances. During our time in D.C. He knit us together as a family and drew us to Himself in dependance.

  • Because the answer to our prayer doesn’t look like we expect doesn’t make it any less a good answer.

Mt. 7:11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

  • God’s will isn’t necessarily the easy thing. It isn’t necessarily the hard thing. He is God. His ways just aren’t our ways. (ugh!)
  • God is not a gleeful trickster with ONE right door for us to choose. There may be more than one choice that will be pleasing to Him, and IF we get it “wrong” He can still redeem it. He is the God of infinite chances.

“Once we can accept that God is in all situations, and that God can and will use even bad situations for good, then everything and everywhere becomes an occasion for good and an encounter with God.” Richard Rohr

 

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What’s Your Super-power?

“If you could have any ‘super-power’ what would it be?”

That was the ice-breaker question posed at a women’s gathering I attended. Peals of laughter could be heard from different small groups around the room as women shared a desire for everything from a “Bewitched” nose twitch to clean their kids’ mess, to a cloaking devise, to the ability to be “beamed up” out of uncomfortable situations.

It’s a fun question to think about, but unfortunately we often seriously compare ourselves to others and think “Oh…I wish I had THAT ‘super-power’!” The gifts and talents others have can seem so “SUPERior” in light of our own that can feel so ordinary.

There are two reasons comparison is so dangerous. When we compare, the result is either pride or despair. Neither are pleasing to God, right? 

As women, I think we’re more prone to the despair end of the spectrum. Satan’s kryptonite seems to be that diabolical little word “as”.

He whispers,

“Not as pretty as…”

Not as good a mom as…”

“Not as popular as…”

“Not as smart as…”

Recently, my small group did a book study, and there is one line from Genesis 3:11 that we have gotten in the habit of repeating to one another when we feel discouraged or “less than”,

This is from Genesis 3: 9-11  when God is talking to Adam:

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked;so I hid.”

 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked?

God knows HE  didn’t tell Adam he was naked.

Is the message you’re hearing really from God? Or is it from someone else? 

After all, God is the One who said you are fearfully and wonderfully made, the One who said He has created good plans in advance for you to do, the One who said He has called you by name, you are His – His chosen, His beloved, the one He sings over…

So today, instead of comparing, let’s remember this…

Four Words About One Word and Spiritual Growth

 I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first dayuntil now,  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6

Are you ever a little spiritually ADD?

Feel like it’s one step forward and two steps back in terms of spiritual growth?

Have you forgotten your One Word ? The one you prayed about and was sure God was going to use to make 2017 the year of AMAZING JESUS AWESOMENESS?

Well sister, here are my three words for you. YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE.

I checked in with some from our blog community about how their “One Word” focus is going this year and thought I’d share their thoughts with you.

Meghann: My word for the year was, “NARRATIVE.”  I really regret it now because this looks like it’s going to be a long road to travel, to trust, and really listen to a different narrative about myself.
 
I know the truth is that I’m not “weak and pathetic” because I’m really broken down, and I’m not “making it worse” by not just pushing past it.  But, ugh.  Would be nice if I could just wake up one morning and say, “What was that?  Moving on…”

 

A reader who lives in the mountains in the middle of Jamaica sent me a note after my last post on my “one word” .

“My 2017 word is LIGHT and I am not doing too badly with it, trying to be intentional at least once weekly.
I chose to use a separate journal and am glad I did. Using the word in my centered prayer practice which I’m just learning, is helpful too. He is truly the Light and brings light to my understanding as I seek Him.”

Heather: My word is BRAVE – learning what brave looks like when I need to say “no” even to good things or when it means disappointing someone…Learning that brave looks and feels different than I sometimes think it will/does, and learning how to be brave in situations that are beyond ME.

Carrie: My word(S) (because you know I can never choose just one) is “YOU WILL”. I need to be steadfast in that God will provide, God will fight for me, God will lavish love on me and those around me, God will move among our students and our church, God will meet me wherever I’m at.

To me, it is more than “God can“. I need to believe and live out of the truth that he will because he is FOR me and good to me. I’ve struggled with believing that over the years. I’ve thought He was good in nature and good to other people and good for me but not always good to me. The verses that I was drawn to on this were Mark 11:22-25 and Ephesians 3:20-21.

Theresa: I couldn’t decide on a word…I’m in such a period of survival. But I do feel now like I’m almost to the top of this mountain and looking forward to what God has in store!

 Molly: I got a pretty notebook and I chose a word but I don’t remember what it was! 

Jesus is about infinity do-overs!

So you see?? You are not alone! It’s ok if you didn’t choose a word and it’s ok if you want to start now! It’s ok if you’ve stumbled a bit this week.
 
 What about the rest of you? Share your experience in the comments.

Use Your Words

We make a lot of runs to our Twin Cities airport, so I’m used to passing the sign that says:

This is a caution…a warning we’re all familiar with since 9/11.

If you see something suspicious, say something and keep us all safe, right? Speak up!

“Use your words.” as we say to toddlers.

But I thought of that sign yesterday as I was leaving Starbucks. The barista paid me a compliment and I was beaming.

He didn’t need to say anything, and it cost him nothing. It made my day.

I thought of all the times I see someone wearing a top I think is cute, or I observe a teen being kind and polite, or a mom being uber patient with her littles… I want to be the person who always speaks up.  The one who says something positive to a stranger or a friend.

I heard a wonderful story the other day about Mohamed Sanu, an Atlanta Falcons football player who received this note from someone who took the time to speak up –  a family sitting behind him on a flight:

This family used their words to affirm someone they would never see again.

Life is hard. There is so much to discourage us out there, right? Let’s use our words to be each other’s best cheerleaders!

If you see something (positive), say something today.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thes. 5:11

What Does God Have to Say to You Today?

I’m a lake girl. I grew up learning to swim in a lake in Wisconsin that was big and deep and dark blue and often the wind whipped the waves into a frenzy. But it was a place I felt safe, treading water or diving under into the silent calm beneath the surface.

Friday I was not on a lake, but by the Pacific Ocean.

I walk along the beach wrapped the early morning air, cool and damp. The spray of crashing waves reaches out to tickle me every once in awhile. Fog shrouds the mountains encircling the bay, making them look like a watercolor painting or a dream – fuzzy in the distance.

My prayer is one common to me on my walks.

“Lord, what do you have to teach me about myself and Yourself today?”

There’s rarely an immediate answer, but rather, like an old-school photo developing in a water tray, something gradually emerges.

Usually.

I’m encouraged by this promise as I walk:

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

Sometimes the picture that develops is heart-warming… encouraging. Sometimes it’s convicting.

Sometimes it feels profound, but often, like today, it’s just a series of small reminders as I reflect on the power of the ocean before me.

The Lord whispers, “You can let the waves wreck you or refine you.”

Lord, how powerful is your love!

The waves of Your grace relentlessly pour over me like the tide coming in.

Help me not to resist the waters of Your correction that smooth my rough edges like polished sea glass on the shore.

Your faithfulness teaches me I can remain safe in storms.

Do you not realize who I am? Do you not fear Me? Do you not shake in the presence of the Eternal, the Creator of all things? 

It is I who has drawn for all time the boundaries of the sea.

The waves may crash and roar against the sand, But the waters do not cross the lines I have drawn. Jeremiah 5:22 (Voice)

“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.” Psalm 46:1-3

When we are mature – attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ – “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:14 (NIV)

What are you learning about yourself and God today?

 

One Ridiculous Secret & 2 Questions to Revitalize Your One Word 2017

What’s your One Word for 2017?

It’s March. Do you even remember it?

Don’t have one? No worries.

I thought it was a brilliant idea the first year I chose One Word instead of making a New Year’s resolution. God used the word Fearless powerfully to form me that year, but since then?  Not so much.

I tend to choose a word and then forget it. To figure God will magically do something without my attention.

Hashtag fail.

The difference is that first year I truly showed up. I invested.

This year my word is STRONG.

I put a prompt on my calendar once a month to review my word, but honestly, other than listing some verses, I’ve ignored it…

Until the other day when I stumbled across a video post from another writer who had struggled similarly. She suggested what I’ve also done (VERY inconsistently) – going through Scripture, using Bible Gateway to check out passages with her word, BUT….(here’s the ridiculous secret part):

SHE BOUGHT A SPECIAL PRETTY JOURNAL just for her One Word! 

So I did too.

Sound ridiculous that that should make a difference? Well sometimes we’re ridiculous people!

So the other day I showed up with my pretty new journal (separate from my ordinary one). I started with the first verse using the word STRONG I found with Bible Gateway and I asked 2  questions:

  1. What does this verse tell me about God?
  2. What does this verse tell me about myself?

And then I journaled a prayer about applying it to my life.

A couple of days later I was sitting with a friend who is in the depths of despair. As I listened to her, my mind went to my one word. I silently prayed for God’s strength in her weakness, in my weakness.

Strong. Not me alone, but God in me. Not you alone, but God in you.

What about you? If you’ve chosen a One Word how have you engaged with God around it? What has He been teaching you?

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