Tag: small things (page 1 of 2)

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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Do You Feel Too Small?

The other day I was working in my “office” and this was my view.

I posted this on Instagram:

Do you see the two people in a canoe on the far side of the lake? They remind me of the first line in a book we used to read to our kids: “The world is big, but I’m so small….”

This morning I’ve been thinking how we can feel “small” in a way that says “insignificant”, or we can feel “small” in a way that says, “Wow! Be inspired. You are part of something bigger than yourself, held and loved by One bigger than yourself.” Whether you’re a teacher or a boss or a mom, I pray this Monday that you have a sense of being part of something great!

Two of my favorite Bible verses seem like they might be at odds with each other.

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” Nehemiah 6:3

“Who dares despise the day of small things?” Zechariah 4:10

The thing is, our “small things” may also be the “great work” we are not to be distracted from. Our “small thing” may be showing up for a commitment when we don’t feel like it, listening longer than is comfortable, bringing a pot of soup to someone who feels tired and alone, reading a Bible story to a toddler… In each of our small things we have the opportunity to love well, to reflect the character of Jesus, to make an eternal impact.

What is your small thing that is also a “great work” God has given you today?

Missing Jesus

This is a picture of a stadium filled with women waiting for Jen Hatmaker to appear and speak.

This is a picture of me preaching recently at a church near us. (No, I didn’t move in. Those are props).

Looks pretty bleak, eh? There might have been 65 people in the congregation.

The guy doing the slides forgot to start and then kept clicking through trying to find the right one to fit with what I was saying. Just a tad distracting for those listening.

I’ve been a guest preacher here before, and there’s usually a young man with some challenges who burps loudly when I preach.

They had cobbled together my lapel mic which didn’t have a clip to attach, so it fell apart towards the end of my sermon. But hey, it was good practice for my ninja-like reflexes.

Yep, me and Jen…

Then, last Sunday I preached at different church, but it looked pretty much the same. Afterwards I was expecting out-of-town guests for brunch at home, about half an hour away, so I was anxious to bolt out the door at the end of the service.

So anxious that I blew off Jesus in my rush to exit.

After realizing who I missed, this is what I wrote in my journal:

Jesus, You were there yesterday! After worship You came up to me and awkwardly requested “a conference”. 

You looked like a crazy old man…kind of like a mad scientist with wispy white hair growing places where hair shouldn’t grow.

I had talked to You before and in my mind labeled you a little “off”.

Because I didn’t recognize You, and because I had to hurry home to prepare for guests coming for brunch, I said, “I’m so sorry, I have to go…” (READ: I have more important commitments with sane people.)

You handed me an offering envelope and asked if I could send you my sermon transcript. 

Later in the afternoon after my guests were gone, I thought, “What if it had been Bill Hybels who had stopped me?” Would I have rushed off, or would I have made time? What if it had been Jesus?

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40

Oh Lord, have mercy. Please forgive me. Help me to be present to You, to the Imago Dei in each person I encounter today.

 

Why We all Need an Aunt Joyce

My Aunt Joyce is 87 years old. She is my mom’s sister, 5 years her senior.

When they shared a bedroom as kids Aunt Joyce convinced my mom that at night she climbed out the window and became Wonder Woman, her tights and cape hidden in the gutter of the roof. (I don’t think she realized Wonder Woman doesn’t wear a cape).

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As much as I love Aunt Joyce, she lives thousands of miles away and until recently we weren’t in close contact.

Then two things happened. David got cancer, and she (who has never EVER owned a computer) got an iPad.

You might say Aunt Joyce is a late bloomer. She gives me hope for myself.

Aunt Joyce got her ears pierced at 84. But she won’t buy dangly earrings because she thinks it draws attention to her less-than-young-looking neck.

She was distressed after she had cataract surgery and she could see her imperfections more clearly. She asked me to pray for her pride because she said even Nancy, her Clinique girl would not be able to help her.

She stood in the background while David was in hospice, praying. Just praying. The whole time she reminded me of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Sure, steady, peace-filled. A quiet comforter.

She has a goal of having her whole church over to her apartment, a few at a time, for dinner. She asks me to pray for grace and patience when she is having the “elderly” over for coffee. They can be a bit cranky, you know.

Recently Aunt Joyce sent me this wonderful quote on prayer:

“Fall upon prayer as your only aid and help in this life. When you are weary, pray. When you are joyful, let your joy feed deeper prayer. When in hunger or thirst, open your heart to the Lord. When in exultation bind your life more firmly to God. When prayer itself if hard, pray all the more. For prayer is ascent to the heart of God who is its true and proper Master in every condition of this life.” Archimandrite Irenei

We all need an Aunt Joyce

  • to remind us, as Craig Groeschel says, “If you’re not dead, you’re not done.”
  • to remind us of the value of “small things” (Zechariah 4:10)

God is great not because nothing is too big for Him. God is great because nothing is too small for Him either. Mark Batterson

  • to remind us that “A changed world begins with us … and a changed us begins when we pray.” Eugene Peterson (James 5:15b)
  • to model a quiet, godly life of faithfulness that clings to God no matter what (1 Thes. 4:11)

And, like Wonder Woman and Super Girl (or Lucy and Ethel) I just stared open-mouth last year when my mom, the other half of this dynamic duo, said she thought she and Dad (82 and 85 years old) ought to take the 2-6 a.m. shift hosting the homeless at their church on Christmas Eve.

This is the same mom who texts and sends pictures on her iPhone, and dresses so hip that her granddaughters have been known to borrow her stuff.

Who are these women??? I want to be like them when I grow up.

Soul Food in Small Bites

If you’ve been reading this blog for long you know my delight with Zechariah 4:10 that cautions  “do not  despise the day of small things.” so this week I thought I’d share some “small things” that have inspired or delighted me.

Twice in the past two weeks we’ve spent time in D.C. and every time I’m here I’m distressed by the many homeless people on the street. I bring a supply of McDonald’s gift cards to give to those in need, but it’s such a small thing for such a big problem.

  1. I was inspired to see this story about someone else doing a small act of kindness that is so thoughtful.

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2. Can you tell what this is?

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It may sound crazy but it is the trail of a worm who made it from one end of a clay tennis court to the other. I absolutely marveled at the courage and resolve of this little guy.  

Did he get lonely? Discouraged? Scared? Did he consider that his efforts might end in failure or death? I know, I know…it’s a worm. But still!

This small picture of bravery made me think of small, but powerful efforts to resist violence in the Middle East.

This week John and I have been privileged to attend a leadership gathering hosted by The Telos Group, a remarkable organization committed to being pro Israeli, pro Palestinian, and pro peace. They have drawn together many of my heroes.

  • Robi Damelin, and Israeli mom who lost her son to a Palestinian sniper, working side by side with Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian whose 10-year-old daughter was gunned down by an Israeli soldier.
  • Daoud Nassar, a Palestinian Christian farmer surrounded by Israeli settlements and subjected to repeated persecution whose message is “We refuse to be enemies” and continues to respond to oppression with love.
  • Roni Keidar, a British Israeli living on the border to the Gaza strip, building bridges between people of all different faiths and political leanings.

Might you take a minute to pray for these hidden heroes who are doing small but courageous acts of love in hard places?

3. I’ve been reading a book with a small word for a title. 

Mark Batterson wrote IF to unpack Romans 8, the chapter about God’s unshakeable love, verse by verse.  I’ve been reading this devotionally, one chapter a day. Mark is inspiring and challenging as always. This is a book about possibilities!

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4. A small dessert – Mini Caramel Apple Cheesecakes, a recipe I pinned from Cooking Classy. Check it out!

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How to Push Back Darkness in Your Corner of the World

Ever think much about the quality of “goodness”?  It’s always sounded really vanilla and fuzzy to me, but recently I listened to a message my friend Heather Zempel preached on this fruit of the Spirit. I was both convicted and encouraged (the sign of a great sermon!).

She was clear, making sure her audience understood that our salvation is not dependent on our goodness, but on the goodness of God.  We don’t do good things to get God’s approval, but we do good things because we’ve already experienced His approval.

The Fruit of the Spirit aren’t just habits for us to engage in, but qualities of God’s character to bless us…for us to soak in first, and that then to ooze out of us, like a sponge soaking up water and then being wrung out.

Goodness isn’t just an inward quality. As Heather says,

“Goodness love in action – strategically pushing back the darkness of the world to allow the light of the goodness of God to shine in.”

Continue reading

Dear Magpie and Other 20-something Friends

Today is our youngest daughter, Maggie’s 27th birthday.

Maggie is the shiny one who has friends all over the world; some she just hasn’t met yet.  She’s the one “car dances” and who keeps us laughing at ourselves and playing games and celebrating life with hoopla. She’s passionate about injustice, and traditions, and a good glass of wine.

For her on her birthday I want to shout “Huzzah!” and give her this sign I saw yesterday that said:

Always keep your beautiful imagination & exquisite humor.

I want to send a plane full of peanut butter M&M’s to scatter around her town so she’ll find them everywhere – nuggets of grace.

I want to go with her on fun new adventures to quirky spots like we’ve done in the past.

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And I want to remind her of what I wrote her two years ago because it still holds true – what I would say to her and to my own 27 year old self…

Dear Magpie,

Don’t let this discourage you, but the older you get the more you’ll know how much you don’t know…how little you’re sure of.  That’s ok though because it will help you to ask good questions, listen hard, and strain to hear God’s voice through His Word and others.

And as you do, you can remain certain of at least these three things.

1.  You really do matter.  The world is big and you’re so small, but even your little choices make a difference.   Don’t ever “despise the day of small things” done with great love.  Remember the theory that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can set in motion a chain of events that will lead to a hurricane somewhere else? Flap your wings.  You matter.

2.  Everything really will be ok.  You’ve made mistakes before and you’ll make them again, and some days you’ll be sure the sky is falling, but the longer you live the more you will remember that the One who hung the stars is still on duty, holding them in place.

You’ll experience His mercies, new every morning.  Again and again.  Ever faithful.  He really does cause all things to work together for good, even when that’s painful.  And He really can redeem anything.  Anything.

3.  You are not alone.  Even when you feel most alone.  When someone has hurt you or betrayed you or you’ve lost something.  No, no one has lived your story, but others have had chapters with similar themes of loss or fear or conflict or joy, and God has given them to you as companions, as well as Himself.  He’s the sure thing. You are beloved.

Sweetie, anyone can write these words, but you will have to live them into your bones.  I know that you will.  You will stretch and ask and risk and hope and pray.

And you will run your race “not somehow, but triumphantly“.  Surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” cheering you on.  With Daddy and me in the front row.

Happy Birthday Magpie.

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How do You Carry a Tree?

Fourteen years ago we took our daughters to Africa for the first time.  We spent a month there on a sabbatical.  One day we saw a woman walking down the road with a tree balanced on her head.

Yep, you read that right.  A whole tree.

You see people balancing a lot of unusual things on their heads (or on their bikes) in Africa, but this was the first and last time we saw a tree. (apparently it’s not THAT rare cuz I was able to Google this picture!)

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That night, our daughter, Maggie, walked into our room, carefully balancing a book on her head.

“I’m working up to a tree.” she said.

Since then, Maggie’s “tree” has been a dream of helping underprivileged girls and women around the world to be healthy and happy and to carry their own dreams. Continue reading

Fearless Leaps and Little Steps

It’s Fearless Friday and we have a guest post.  I’m excited to let you hear from my intrepid, amazingly mature, thoughtful and articulate friend, Mackenzie Dykstra!  She’s a senior at Edina High School and is already shaking up her part of the world.  Enjoy!
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The word fearlessness has the connotation of something extraordinary; where one battles impossible tasks with incredible courage and bravery.  When I think of fearlessness I see a soldier on the front lines, or a young child fighting against cancer that’s wracking her body. I see people that have great challenges to overcome and that are brilliant through their darkest moments. In this past year I have realized that fearlessness is represented by all those things but it can also be the smaller acts that are done in the shadows that require as much courage and delight God just the same.

To be fearless is to take a blind leap of faith. Continue reading

Learning to Live Fearlessly (guest post)

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Sarah Wineland (on the left, with her sister in this picture) is one of my delightfully brave friends.  Actually she was Maggie and Katy’s friend first, but they have generously shared her with me :)!  I asked her to guest post on this Fearless Friday.  Enjoy!

My first brave moment came when I was 13 at a summer camp.  We were whitewater rafting and had stopped at a large jumping rock. Being the timid, quiet child that I was, I didn’t want to jump. A counselor encouraged me to “just try it,” and the experience was exhilarating and indelibly life-changing.  I suddenly realized I couldn’t let fear keep me from experiencing a full life.  Life was meant to be lived vibrantly, and safety wasn’t necessarily the best route. I decided to live more daringly and face my fears head-on.   (Residual effects of this decision have included: eating various bugs, learning to be vulnerable, taking more chances, living in several countries, taking a job doing maintenance on septic tanks, climbing the Grand Teton, and leading worship.)

In my adult life, I haven’t always succeeded at living fearlessly.  I tend to be risk-averse and a people-pleaser, at times avoiding conflict.  Back in December, a friend of mine insisted that I watch this TED talk about vulnerability by Brene Brown, and it sparked something in my brain.  Like my summer camp experience, it reminded me that I live too fearfully, too timidly, in my approach to the world and other people. I needed to find strength to jump off of those proverbial rocks into the river.  So I determined that 2013 would be my year of living fearlessly.  I would aim to do something that scared me at least once a week, with the hope that fearlessness would become a lifestyle.

It started with the little things.   Continue reading

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