Fasting, Personal Growth, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 20: “Intentionality”

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,

    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.

They’re created new every morning.

    How great your faithfulness!

I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).

    He’s all I’ve got left.

Lamentations 3:22-24 (MSG)

New habits have made you more intentional. You are encouraged to continue the behaviours you have chosen over these last three weeks in order to maintain intimacy with God. Your life looks and feels different. In the space of 3 weeks, you have heard from God more clearly. You know him better. You can sense a fresh direction in areas you need to make decisions.

Now, be brave! Make your choices! Act on what you heard God speak to you! Don’t hesitate! Jump into everything God has for you and continue digging deeper with him!

If you haven’t been consistent over the last 20 days, it’s okay. Make calculated plans for the rest of your year and like the old Anne Murray song, remind yourself that you “gotta get back to where you used to be. Time don’t run out on me.” Start today and move forward with intentionality. Carpe Diem. YOLO. The journey of growing in intimacy with Christ never stops. You never arrive at a place where you are have nothing else to work on. SO, embrace this rather than lamenting it.

Aren’t you thankful God’s mercies are new every morning, never running out? Stick with him and don’t look back. Your considered steps are allowing you to make progress in every area of your spiritual walk.

*Read Proverbs 21:5 and ask God to show you what plans you are meant to move forward with today. You can’t tackle everything on your list, so seek him to determine what’s most important. Then, do it. Don’t overanalyse. Don’t worry about it or try and anticipate all the “what if’s.” Trust God and keep your attention on him.

Fasting, Friendship, Personal Growth, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 12: “Friendship”

Two are better than one,

    because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

    one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

    and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)

You’re more than halfway through the 21 days of prayer and fasting. You’re examining yourself more closely and you’re intentionally seeking God’s face in areas where you desire breakthrough.

Healthy friendships can spur you on towards progress in every area of your life. Subsequently, dysfunctional friendships can actually inhibit your spiritual growth with negativity, judgement, dysfunction, or strife. Your friends can help you grow to become all God wants you to be or they can bring you right down to your lowest point.

Friends matter to God. The Bible mentions friendship hundreds of times and uses stories like David and Jonathan to show you what true friendship looks like. Jesus himself was a “friend to sinners” and Paul and Silas had praying friends who brought heaven down in a prayer meeting so mighty, prison doors opened to set them free.

True friends stay loyal through good times and bad. They don’t gossip about you or betray your confidence. A true friend sticks closer than a brother. Do you have good friends you can count on when times are hard? Christian brothers and sisters who will pray with you, bring Godly perspective when you’re struggling and tell you the truth even when it hurts?

You might be longing for a dear ally right now. Someone who will sharpen you and understand you. Pain from past rejection might cause you to put walls up with friends so you don’t get hurt again. It’s a risk worth taking to put yourself out there for a mate. Although vulnerability is scary, it takes being a sincere friend to gain one.

Your friendship matters to someone today. If you’re not feeling like you are in a place of being able to offer what someone else needs, ask God to help you. Look at one thing you can do to be a buddy to a neighbour or someone at church. Then, just do it. Pray for your friends today. Ask God to meet them in the places they feel lonely and ashamed. You never know what prison walls might come down in your life and theirs!

*Read Proverbs 27:17 and ask yourself who in your life sharpens you. Do the majority of your friends make you feel closer to God and more like the “you” you want to be? Or, do they drain you and cause you pain? God wants you to surround yourself with those who will bring you closer to him.

Fasting, peace, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Day 6: “Peace. Not Perfection.”

Artwork by: Bartosz Kosowski

Ten tiny fingers and toes, skin like velvet, total contentment with eyes closed all swaddled up in a cozy blanket: PERFECTION. Unblemished body, shiny leather, sleek and ergonomic with all the bells and whistles: FLAWLESS. Tall, dark and handsome with straight shiny white teeth, adoring eyes, and a sense of humour: IDEAL.

Some of you grew up aspiring to be the paragon of the school, the cream of the crop, the epitome of excellence and achievement. Your hard fought wins taught you that putting in effort gets you results and attention. You thrive on other’s approval, keeping order, juggling all the balls so they remain elevated at just the right height.

Perfectionism: the antagonist in this chapter on peace. Your desire to experience breakthrough during this fast is robbed when your aim is 100%. Every. Single. Day. The house must be clean. The kids must behave. The cooked meals should meet everyone’s standards. A raise at work. A good body. It goes on and on, as exhausting as walking up ten flights of stairs.

The problem with ideals beyond reach is the subtle message they send: “You’re not good enough.” Your life, your bank account, your job, your spouse, your kids, your size… measured against utopia, you have failed. When you feel you’re not enough or your life isn’t enough, you will find yourself striving, controlling, battling on every front. You’ve lost your composure and the lull of relaxation feels like guilt.

Give yourself permission today to let go. Give up your ideal and allow your present reality to suffice. You are not a problem. Comparison is a trap. The hamster wheel of achievement is hard to get off; you may feel the more you achieve the more others expect you to perform. Relax even if you know more could be done on your project, at work, in your home.

Pay attention today to the things that bring you angst and set them aside. Spend ten minutes meditating on gratefulness. Giving thanks for your current circumstances and looking for the good in yourself and others will resolve the tension in your life. God loves you just the way you are and he wants you to spend time with him, leaning into him for wisdom AND a to do list. Prioritise Jesus and HIS ways. After all, only God is immaculate, without blemish or stain. Glean from him and allow a cease-fire between your expectations and your reality today.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Proverbs 17:1 (NIV)
Contentment, Devotion, Inspiration, Kids, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 11: “Home Sweet Home”

it's good to be homeWhat’s happening within the four walls of your own home matters more than anything you do outside of it. Your household environment affects every aspect of your life.

Is it good to live in your home? Is there an atmosphere of faith? Is the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) around every corner?

Home should be your sweet spot of serenity. The people you live with should be your safety net when troubles come and your party when it’s time to celebrate. Sadly, this isn’t the case for so many of you; do you have faith enough to believe it can change?

Your family needs prayer. They need support, acceptance, love, validation, encouragement. Your husband needs respect and honour. Your wife needs affirmation and attention. Your kids need cuddles and quality time together.

Ask God to show you where the needs are within your own home. Pray for each person in your family, specifically asking God to be present and for his will to be done in every situation you all face. Extend grace and forgiveness where it’s needed and seek wisdom from above.

“Through [skillful and godly] wisdom a house [a life, a home, a family] is built, and by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation], and by knowledge its rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Proverbs 24:3-4 AMP).

Friendship, Leadership, Uncategorized

Who Can You Call A Friend?

myfriends

Throughout my life, friends have brought both the greatest joys and some of the deepest hurts. What happens when we let someone in on our dreams, insecurities, or opinions believing they “get us” only to find we were worlds apart in our understanding? They can betray us or leave us feeling rejected if they exit our “inner circle” unexpectedly.

“There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). How do we define a “real friend?” I heard a great teaching a few years ago from TD Jakes that helps put our relationships in context. Lamenting over a “bestie” who was really just a companion for a season is a waste of time. I’m sure I’ve adjusted the Bishop’s original thought but here’s my take on it:

I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.
I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.

CONFIDANTS are friends that are “FOR YOU” no matter what you are for! They love you unconditionally. They stick by your side no matter where you live, what direction your life takes or what mood you’re in. You can confide in them; they don’t judge you. You can screw up and hurt them; they forgive you. Your best moments will find them cheering. Your worst? Alongside you crying. Time nor distance can keep you apart in your hearts. If you have a couple of these in a lifetime, consider yourself blessed.

CONSTITUENTS are “FOR WHAT YOU’RE FOR” and nothing more. (This doesn’t negate their importance or value.) I would venture to say most people in your circles could be considered constituents. They come along when your kids are in the same class and you have chats over coffee after drop-off. Or, you connect because of a common cause. Maybe it’s political. Or, a project at work puts you in the same place at the same time everyday. You mesh because you’re connected to a vision or the same leader.

It’s easy to feel like “BFFs” but if your commonality changes, you might feel the relationship fade. Understanding constituents properly can help you avoid being hurt when this normal cycle occurs. I’ve often met someone new at church who’s offended because “no one reached out” to her after she left her last place of worship. (You may have experienced this in a job transfer too.)

Maybe you mis-took those friends as confidants when all along, they were constituents? 

Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don't buy one too soon!
Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don’t buy one too soon!

You were connected because you both “FOR” the same thing. If YOU chose to leave, you can’t expect the ones who are still there to follow you. You’ve detached yourself from what joined you together. You may remain connected for a season but don’t be surprised if your relationship vaporizes over time.

Constituents are great. You need them in your life! But if they go, remember they were merely “for” what you were “for.” They were never “FOR YOU.”

COMRADES are actually “AGAINST WHAT YOU’RE AGAINST!” They might be the people on the committee at school who help you fight the administration’s decision to get rid of recess. Or, you’re connected on FaceBook because you all hate Ps Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. Caution: As quickly as you hooked up, you will be dropped because the next bandwagon is available for hire. I see these groups play out in kids sports; everyone is on the same page because they dislike a certain coach or rule. You’re allies as you rant over how YOU think things should be run. Then, when the team disseminates or you get a new coach, nothing remains to keep you connected.

Pastors, be careful of the comrades who join your church because they are against the way the last church operated. They will leave you too once you offend or refuse to bend to their demands.

Comrades aren’t always negative. They can come along like scaffolding to help you fight a fight. Once the job is done, they are gone but their impact and importance aren’t soon forgotten.

Knowing the difference between confidants, constituents, and comrades brings perspective and keeps your expectations in check. Feel free to post comments if this post helped you or you have another perspective on the matter!

 

Fasting, Friendship, Love, Series, Uncategorized

Fasting Devotion, Day Nine

Philippians 2:1-11

Healthy relationships matter. When we are lonely, we need friends to come around us. When we have a blind spot, it’s nice for someone we love to help us out and have our backs! We value and appreciate acts of kindness and sacrifice of others to stand by us during tough times.

Whether married or single, old or young, introvert or extrovert, most of our days are spent interacting with other people. Christ desires our relationships to prosper. As a matter of fact, we are to be known as Christians by the way we love one another. The greatest commandment after loving God with all our hearts is to love our neighbour as ourself. We are to love one another as Christ loves us, unconditionally. We are to forgive each other when we are wronged.

Proverbs gives many examples of flourishing relationships: Offenses are overlooked; friends can become “family;” reliable friends are refreshing, not draining.

We all know healthy relationships are vital to a good life. But how do we ensure we have them?The Apostle Paul gives us a guide:

We use Christ as the model and commit to living with humility, not seeking a position or pushing forth an agenda. Christ had equal status with God yet gave all that up to come down to our HUMAN level and serve mankind.

Who have you served lately? Who needs you to come down to her level and stand united? Who might you forgive as Christ has forgiven you?

When we invest in other people, we gain a heavenly reward. People are what matters most to God. If we need a friend, we should be the type of friend we desire. Living to serve and honor those in our lives will reap a lasting reward for each of us.

Dear Lord, it’s an honour to call you my friend. You love me unconditionally and modeled true servanthood when you stepped out of heaven to join me on Earth. I pray I can follow your example and truly serve and love the ones you have placed in my life. Mend any relationships that are broken. Strengthen my friendships and teach me how to love so that you may be glorified. In Jesus’ name, Amen.