Joy, Lent

SUNDAY JOY: I Choose TRUTH!

When people count the 40 days of Lent (such as me and this blog series of 40 Days of Giving Up), it doesn’t include the Sundays.  The thought process behind this is that even though Lent is a somewhat solemn time to focus on the sacrifice of Jesus in his death, each Sunday of the year, including those in Lent, is to be like a mini-Easter celebration.   So, on the Sundays during this Lent season, I’ll take a break from “giving up”.

Today, I want you to think about the number 6.  Keep thinking about the number 6.  When you go throughout today think about the number 6, over and over and over.  When you brush your teeth…. when you get the car… when you’re in church (I guess you can take a break to listen to Pastor’s sermon)… when you’re eating lunch… when you’re watching TV… constantly think about the number 6.

Now let’s say you did that for a whole week… constantly thinking about the number 6.  Then, all of the sudden, next Sunday, I told you to just STOP thinking about the number 6.   It would be practically impossible.  After focusing on it so much for a whole week, you couldn’t NOT think about it if you tried.  And when you would try you would then fail, because in trying to not think about 6, you actually think about 6, and then get frustrated that you can’t stop thinking about 6.  Which, again, would be thinking about 6.

This is how it can be when we’re trying to give up these hard things that are so ingrained in us… things like worry and pride and busyness.  If we couldn’t even “stop thinking about 6”, how could we ever just “give up worry”.

BUT, what if instead of just telling you to stop thinking about 6, next week I told you to START thinking about the number 9 instead?  When you brush your teeth…9  When you get the car…9.  When you’re in church… 9. When you’re eating lunch…9.  Constantly think about the number 9. At first you might slip up at times and think about 6 instead of 9, but then you could refocus on 9 and before you knew it, 6 would be less and less in your mind as 9 overtook it.

So many of these things I’m choosing to give up this Lent are based in lies. Lies about myself, lies about God, lies about the world and the people around me.  If I simply try to stop believing those lies, I will never actually succeed. BUT if I shift my focus on truth, slowly those lies will fade and loose their power.  Sure I’ll slip up, but more and more I’ll be able to catch myself and refocus my attention.

When I find myself worried, I can remind myself that my God provides everything I need.  When I over-commit to things and am way to busy, I can remember the truths God shares about the value of rest, and make adjustments to my schedule.  When I get caught up in pride and selfish-ambition, I can focus on the truth that God alone is powerful and worthy and ask Him to give me a spirit of humility and service.

Yes, I give up all these things, but only when I choose truth instead, will I find any success.

Jesus, help us give up these things by imprinting Your truth on our hearts.  In Your Name we pray, Amen!

Lent

Giving Up Over-Commitment 

Yesterday I talked about giving up the concept of being busy. But what does that really look like? It’s impossible in a practical sense to give up a spirit of busyness without also giving up things like today’s topic: over-commitment. I do believe it is possible, and sometimes God-honoring, to have a schedule that is really full. Where trouble comes for me is when I go from “full” to “too full”.  

Here are a few things I’ve learned to help me and that I’m reminding myself of today as I choose to give up over-commitment:

SAYING NO 

This one is hard for me. Sometimes it’s my people pleasing nature pushing me toward “yes”.  Others I’m just so busy that I don’t have the mental power to say “no” and therefore I get even more overwhelmed. Still other times, I simply forget my priorities, goals, gifts, and passions and end up committing to things I’m either not gifted for or am not supposed to be doing with my time. Lysa Terkerst has a great book about this called “The Best Yes”. Here are some questions I found all throughout her book or have come up with on my own that help me in various situations when trying to make a decision in order to avoid over-commitment:

  • Have you been spending time with Jesus lately in His Word and prayer? (Translation: Am I in a good place to make this decision with Jesus or am I trying to make it on my own?)
  • Have you sought godly counsel and insights from wise people who know details about your situation?
  • Could this fit in your life/are there resources for it… Physically? Financially? Spiritually? Emotionally? Professionally? Relationally? If resources aren’t there, is it because I need to say “no” or do I need to step out in faith that God will provide? 
  • Does it seem like God is wanting use ME or is this someone else’s assignment? What might be my role, if any, in helping them be able to say yes.
  • What is my attitude about this? Am I making to decision in love or obligation? Am I making any part of this decision, either way, simply out of fear? 
  • What might end up being sacrificed because of saying “yes” to this? Is that worth the cost?
  • How will this impact you or calendar? 
  • Is this potentially a “yes…but not now?”
  • How do you think you will feel after saying ‘yes’? After saying ‘no’? Where is God giving peace?

While sometimes these questions just lead to more questions, I have found that simply by being intentional in my decision leads me to the best yeses and the best nos.

SABBATH 

I believe God created Sabbath for a reason. We need to rest, but I think even more so, we need one day to remember that the world doesn’t depend on us. Ceasing to work for one day a week helps put into perspective that GOD is God, not me and the world will still go on if I rest. As a church worker, it is hard to take this day of rest on Sunday’s. But, knowing it’s important in order to give up over commitment and busyness, I recently went through my calendar from now until May and marked one 24-hour period a week that can be my Sabbath. Some weeks I only found 20 hours or maybe it had to be split up over two days in a week. It’s not so much about “getting it right” but rather making it a priority to stop, and say, “God, I trust you know better than me. Use this time to remind me who I am and Whose I am”.  

When I am intentional about putting this time on the calendar, I suddenly find I am WAY more productive on the other 6 days.  I have energy to do a load of laundry or focus for one more hour in the office because I’m know that I have these moments of rest coming to renew, restore, and prepared me for another week. What to do during these sabbath moments could be an entire blog series on its own, but in general, I try to do things that refresh me, connect me to God, and spend time with people I love.

ACCOUNTABILITY 

Sometimes we just need someone to say no for us. As a single woman, I have learned that people aren’t likely to do this without me asking; so I have to ask. I have to be intentional about sharing details of my life with friends and family so when I ask for their input they have details to inform their thoughts. I have to ask people to check in on me and challenge me to think about how I’m spending my time. We need other people in our lives, whether it’s a teammate, friend, spouse, or parent, to keep us accountable for not over-filling our lives.

REMEMBER THE REASON 
Above all, I have to remind myself of the reasons I desire to give up over-commitment…mainly because it often gets in the way of my relationships with others and with God. When I step back and can practically see how less in some areas means more in the areas that matter most, making those decisions easy. 

Jesus, we pray that today you would help us stop over-committing in our lives. Help us give up the things that don’t fit in your great plan for us.  Give us strength to say no to some things without guilt that we may say yes to the best things.  Give us wisdom about which is which.  Give us peace to rest always in you! We trust you with our lives! Amen!

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Lent

Giving up “Busy”

“How are you?”

Such a common phrase, often said more as a passing greeting than an actual question.  Our responses typically don’t go too deep either:

“Fine.”   Or   “I’m good.” (Even if we’re not really either).

The one I seem to hear more and more lately: “Busy”

Or some combination of them “busy but good”.

Something struck me recently about how often I use that phrase when it doesn’t even really apply.  It’s simply a socially acceptable way to respond when you don’t really know how to respond.  While life is pretty good for me right now, I know there have been plenty of times when I share with my closest friends that I often don’t know how to respond to the casual “How are you?” greetings.  When things aren’t going well, I find myself pulling out one of these side-truths.  “Busy” sound so much better in our culture than simply admitting we’re having a bad day.

I’m sad at realizing what this often inadvertently communicates to people around me.  Perhaps that “I’m too busy for you.”

I also hate what this communicates to my own soul.  The hurry. The resistance to rest.  The chicken-with-her-head cut off. Even in seasons of full schedule, “busy” is not who I am.

I am loved. I am valued. I am adored. I am powerful. I am Rebekah. I am being used by God. I am hopeful. I am sad sometimes. I am joyful. I am a kingdom worker. I’m a daughter, sister, aunt, teammate, teacher, encourager, missionary, friend.

And while those things don’t each individually make up my identity, I am so much more than “busy”.

So for today, and the rest of Lent, and prayerfully, the rest of my life, I give up “busy” being an acceptable response in my life to the “How are you?” question. I also give up busy as a state of my soul.  Things will happen that will frazzle me.  There will be plenty of times, especially in the coming months, where my schedule will be packed full.  But I choose to not let busyness steal my soul.

I will rest. I will laugh. I will be honest about how I am doing in the middle of the full schedules. I will pay attention to my body and my heart and take care of myself.  I will say no to some things in order to save my “yes” for the best things. And more than that, I will take time every day to sit at the feet of Jesus and let him remind me who I really am apart from any of the “busyness”.

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Lord, in the middle of what can seem like a busy life, remind me that I am so much more than “busy”.  I confess my busyness and the way it impacts my heart and potentially the hearts of people around me. May I be fully present wherever I am. May I never get so busy for you that I neglect just being with you. Help me to slow down and remember my job is simply to abide in you as a branch abides in a Vine, to trust You will provide all I need that my life may bear fruit. I love you and thank you for loving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen!