Day 16: “A Worthy Foundation.”

Photo: cbc.ca

Our pop culture can easily package up your faith in handy Instagram images, retweets, or reposts. On the outside, you seem all deep and meaningful, perhaps even well-read. You scroll through articles and images “liking” and looking. “Amen” to that. Another one minute snappy sermon, tick.

You normally spend time skimming the latest news and most popular trends. However, this time of fasting has taken your microwave content and slow cooked it. The YouVersion “verse of the day” has come alive and God is revealing truths to you beyond the Christian-ese some around you are speaking. This will sustain you beyond your snack packet, low cal, fillers into a wholesome, healthy base upon which you will continue to build.

What truths have resonated with you most? Are you easing into that place of peace you find when you tuck into Jesus and his Word?

You are satiated and satisfied when revelation makes it’s way inside your spirit.

You’re strengthening the foundation of your faith. Like insurance that pays out upon unexpected tragedy, you’re putting your policy in place, depositing extra moments of God time into your spiritual account. When winds come and the Earth shakes beneath your feet, you can cash in because Jesus’ words are ready for redeeming. You stocked up on truth. You’re freezing his words, ready to thaw under the heat of life which is sure to manifest one day.

Keep setting aside time. Keep journaling, reading, asking, praying. Fill yourself with more and more of your Heavenly Father’s words in place of that meal or social media. Whatever you gave up is an empty space waiting to hold your deepest, most desperate cries.

Let your vulnerability before God break open something worth spilling out. Your life is more stable than ever because you know your foundation is secure.

“That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”

Ephesians 2:19-22 (MSG)
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Day 15: “TGI-Everyday.”

Illustration: @real_simple Instagram

The hustle of a busy week slows its pace and you begin to park yourself right up against the curb of your Friday: no homework, the possibility of a sleep in, and the unforced rhythm of the weekend ahead of you.

You’re excited because more than likely, you work to live. You might love your job but it’s still a J-O-B – a means to an end. Although rest and relaxation are necessary and God-ordained, you’re learning to become more present in your everyday moments. This time of fasting and prayer has caused you to tune into your surroundings and slow down to listen to the heavenly nudges coming your way.

Rather than wishing away all the tediousness of your chores, why not embrace each moment as God-given and necessary? The mundane of everyday life is, after all, life itself. The meetings, the groceries; cleaning, cooking and shopping. Homework and mail opening. Carpooling, phone answering, negotiating with kids. Calendars, bills, gardening and exercise. Walking the dog. Running errands.

You go to sleep. You wake up. And, you start again.

A life well lived is full and vibrant, giving excuse to unavailabilities, grateful for its fullness. Your journey doesn’t begrudge the busy-ness. You’re on a God-adventure!

Shift your perspective on the ordinary humdrum, day-to-day. Rather than wishing time away, find the beauty in the mess. You’re tempted to allow life to tumble past you – your days, weeks and months all muddled together and mistaken as ordinary and senseless.

Slow down and give thanks for your everyday, banal habits. Fix your eyes on the beauty you see in the mirror as you clean your teeth. Hum a tune while you cook dinner and laugh at the sheer expense of feeding your family. You’re not a victim of your routine. You’re the Chief Executive Officer of a blessed life: full and crazy and unique!

The grass isn’t greener somewhere else.

You’re not to feel sorry for your perceived lack.

Dreams of a future holiday mustn’t rob your today.

YOLO… so stop it with the FOMO.

“Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

Philippians 4:11-13 (MSG)

Day 12: “Peace. In Church.”

Photo: avante.biz

A communion of saints, gathering of believers, a company with a cause to fulfil the Great Commission: The Church on Earth. In Moses’ time, great value was placed on the tabernacle as sacrifices were made and festivals celebrated. The temple of the Old Testament was the location of profound teachings and gatherings. The early church came into existence in the New Testament after Jesus’ death and resurrection. God, over and over again, uses flawed people to come together to worship, learn, encourage, eat, and pray. Those people are his Plan A for spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the Earth.

The church equips the saints to do the work of the ministry. Diversity in age and experience among God’s people brings the tapestry of each one together in beauty and purpose. Unfortunately, churches can also be a source of heartache and dysfunction as many of you seek to find a perfect place without problems or strife. As long as the church is full of people, it will never be absent of problems.

The Bible promises blessing to flow when you live together in unity:

“How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.”

Psalm 133:1-3 (NIV)

You may not agree on every theological point with your fellow Christians in a different denomination. Your style of worship may look loud and “free;” or, perhaps it’s reserved and quiet. The source of your lyrics – hymnals or power points? Does it really matter?

God’s church is alive and well on the earth and it deserves all our focus and attention today.

Pray for your pastors and leaders in church. Pray for its specific vision and purpose to be carried out. Ask God to bring peace where there is discord. Truce in disagreement. Jesus considers the church a spotless bride for whom he will come back one day. He loves the church and it’s worth fighting for in prayer today.

“I hope to visit you soon, but just in case I’m delayed, I’m writing this letter so you’ll know how things ought to go in God’s household, this God-alive church, bastion of truth. This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things are clear enough:
He appeared in a human body,
was proved right by the invisible Spirit,
was seen by angels.
He was proclaimed among all kinds of peoples,
believed in all over the world,
taken up into heavenly glory.”

1 Timothy 3:14-16

Day 2: “The Right Road”

photo: wagabunda.club

Seeking God through a concentrated time of prayer and fasting means something different to each person. You may feel weary from circling around the same mountain and you want to see different terrain this year. Perhaps your spiritual walk feels sluggish and stale; you know the onus is on YOU to pick up the pace, focussing on Jesus more in order to break some bad habits or to hear his still, small voice again.

You might be seeking breakthrough in a specific area for yourself:

Overcoming an addiction

Physical healing

Reconciliation in a relationship.

Or, you’re praying and believing for someone else… A family member who needs a miracle.

Your path is covered in thorny bushes and roadblocks; progressing seems impossible. You feel out of breath at the thought of going higher. Your spiritual muscles are squishy and you think you’re not cut out for the heavy lifting required by a life of authentic faith.

Whatever your reason for embarking on this journey, it’s a good one. You have identified some stalemate in your life and you wish to overcome it, to stretch yourself and dive into deeper waters with your God. You have an intrinsic motivation driving you, compelling you to look ahead rather than behind. You are pioneering afresh, taking back ground which you might have thought was forever stolen from you.

Today, equip yourself for battle. Your armour is your faith. Your weapons are the truth you hold within the Word of God. Your salvation is secure and your Saviour is petitioning on your behalf as you align your will with his.

Step out in faith and you will hear what God wants to say… a personal road map of whispers, guiding you along your narrow trail of difficulty. Everyone is navigating treacherous waters. It’s a lie to believe you’re alone. Nothing you face on your road to victory is new to the One who carved your path.

Envision yourself today, saddled up alongside a brave hero who can conquer anything. Let Jesus take the reigns. Let go of the control you falsely believe is giving you success. Your peace isn’t found in seeing others do what you want, how you want it done. Clarity doesn’t come by more money landing in your account. Harmony doesn’t make its way to you through mowing down the next mile marker at breakneck speed.

You’ll never arrive at the perfect destination this side of heaven. So, begin the practise of leaning into the shadow of the Almighty’s wing. Let him take you 30k feet above the turbulence below. Your circumstance doesn’t have to change for you to see today differently. You’re en route and your help is near.

“The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes. God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree.”

Psalm 19:7-9

Day 1: “An Invitation”

The New Year has officially begun; and, as expected, the slow pace of lazy days by the beach, time off work, and extra sleep has abruptly ended. School has started for the kids. Work is in full swing for the adults. The calendar begins to fill like the sink with dirty dishes – all messy and stacked high.

You long to get to the bottom of it all. To maintain order. To wrap your head and pen around the “stuff” and place it neatly in boxes where it shall lay, subdued by the force of your strong will. The schedule, the stress, the decisions, the mess. You want to wrangle it all to the ground and tie those coveting hands up so they can’t reach you and devour your 2019.

You are searching for the calm. You dream of waking up to a quiet household. Can’t you just merge slowly with the traffic of the morning? You wish to find your family full of enthusiasm for the day ahead, rather than dread.

You fantasise about the next break, or maybe just a short nap. You are striving, pushing, yearning for this year to be different:

Better health

More money

Diminished problems and heartache…

A New Year holds the promise of what yesterday failed to yield. You are searching for answers, believing you can put together the right formula this time to find the things for which life has withheld thus far.

*If you’ve decided to join me for the next 21 days, committed to prayer and fasting, you WILL find what you’re looking for. Breakthrough awaits you. Spend time each morning taking ten deep breaths, closing your eyes, listening to the Holy Spirit, and reflecting on these words and scripture. Use a journal to write down your thoughts each day. What is it you want God to do in your life this year? How about over the next three weeks? Come along and draw closer to the One who holds the answers you seek.

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”

Revelation 21:3-5 (MSG)

Permission to Dominate

Calling the shots, running the show. Who’s the boss? If you’re anything like me, you’ve realised with some age and experience, there are very few things over which you truly have control. You might oversee, manage, direct, lead. But ultimate power over your life is fleeting, an out of reach mirage.

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I used to live under the delusion that being fun, attentive, engaging, and kind would govern how much and how many people liked me. The more amazing I was, would surely hold sway over people, forcing them to fancy me.

That’s a hallucination totally not worth the striving.

Worrying what people think of me to the effect of second guessing my decisions used to be a way of life.  Tethered to this issue of control, as if I could create a world where no one would disagree with me. What an illusion!

I’ve had struggles with control my whole life as they relate to an outward fixation on my environment or other people.

Thank God, I’ve found ONE area where I can give full vent to my desire to dominate – the elixir to my insatiable need to be in charge. Imagine, it’s right here with me, in my own possession, accessible 24/7, and ready to be put to use at my beck and call. It’s TOTALLY and utterly subjected to whatever I decide.

You have one too. It’s free of charge and comes with euphoric endorphins that make you feel high on life: your and my “Attitude of Gratitude” has been there all along, lying dormant at times but easily awakened. Just look up from your pain, your frustration, your stress. Thankfulness has the power to change your perspective and shift the atmosphere in your home.

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My Thankfulness Journal, where I document 3 things for which I’m grateful each day. Why not join me and let’s swap stories on its effect?

When I give thanks for the people around me, I suddenly have grace for their mistakes. Praising myself (instead of self-loathing) for working out or eating well, causes my reflection in the mirror to suddenly shine brighter. Words of blessing upon my children for their uniqueness diminish my frustration at their non-cooperation. A Thank You note to my husband helps cross out that list of wrongs I thought about keeping. Praise for my cute yellow house and its great entertaining space makes me less upset about how small it is.

What a powerful feeling – taking control of something so important, so life-giving, and so necessary. What would happen if we all acknowledged this untapped potential we have inside, utter reliance on something as firm and unwavering as gratitude? How might our days differentiate themselves when they find themselves full of fondness?

To look heavenward each day, governed by the Spirit of God who loves us and has our best interests at heart should be our aim. Dominate that space.

“And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way” (Colossians 3:16-17 MSG).

 

Mile Two

go extra mileA recent MYER customer service experience blew me away when my question about a size 10 white blouse turned into conversation about  where I was planning to wear said blouse. After sussing out my style, the trendy young associate gave me ideas for other outfit combos, escorted me to the dressing room and even found some heels in the shoe department to try on with her suggestions. She made shopping fun and certainly went “the extra mile!”

When I envisage “going the extra mile,” I hear my CrossFit coach, Carl, encouraging me to get in an extra set if I want “gains!” I think of excellence in standards, generosity of spirit, an “over-and-above” attitude.

 

The opposite sentiment asks “do we have to” and, “what are the minimum standards?”

Extrinsic motivation for fear of retribution.

Jesus, in Matthew, instructs us this way: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Jesus referenced an ancient Persian custom of using couriers to deliver letters or important news, one with which his audience would have been familiar. The King’s personal courier held absolute power to enlist whatever help he needed to fulfil the task at hand. For example, he might not only ask to use your horse to deliver his message, but he could also demand you come with him; and, if you refused, you could be punished, even put to death! That would certainly motivate you to get moving!

All of us do things because we HAVE to; however, Jesus was speaking about attitude.

He was saying, “Don’t merely do what’s asked of you because you know if you don’t, you’ll be punished.” Sure, do what’s asked of you. Please.

And then, do a little bit more.

Go above and beyond in your effort with no expectation of a reward. It’s a “Wow, I can’t believe we GET to…” attitude driven by personal satisfaction, intrinsic motivation. Anticipation of fulfilment despite any tangible payoffs.

In the second mile, the one that isn’t required, fatigue sets in. You might start questioning why you’re there in the first place. You look back at what you’ve already done and if you’re not careful, martyrdom sets in:

POOR ME!

WHY ME?

DOES ANYONE EVEN NOTICE ME????

You look at other people and how little THEY’RE doing and you tell yourself how amazing YOU are in comparison and it’s enough to stop you short.

It’s HARD… this whole staying-the-course, second mile thing.

So, how do you fulfil the expectation Jesus has for you, going not just one mile, but two? Ratcheting up a level with joyful willingness? Expectancy?

Well, you don’t quit. When the pressure builds and odds seem like they are stacked against you, dig deep. Find your true strength, what you’re really made of. Don’t hold back. Cry out to heaven and ask for help. Push through the pain and remember that nothing good ever comes without a fight.

If the going is getting tough in your job, your marriage, your church, (your workouts), don’t retreat. Don’t entertain giving up. Don’t let a bad attitude, doubt, offence, or fear cause you to throw in the towel.

Your best days are ahead and if you’re struggling to stick with it, you put one foot in front of the other and press into the strength that only comes from seeking God.

He will sustain you. After all, he has all the answers. He laid out a path before you and his plans are worth fighting for. But, you’ll only find out if you keep going.

“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Philippians 3:13-14 MSG).