The Power of With

With Jesus – Called, Appointed, Sent

“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to Him those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mark 3:13-15, NIV)

The disciples were called, appointed, and sent, in that order.

With Jesus, the being always precedes the doing.

Notice the progression in the above verses:The Power of With

  1. He went up on the mountainside – separating Himself from the crowd – creating space and time to be with His chosen followers.

  2. He called to Himself the ones He had chosen. Can you imagine the feeling of hearing your name called out from among the masses? Hand-picked by the Father to be on the original Team Jesus – what a monumental, wondrous, life-changing event! I wonder what thoughts and feelings flooded the disciples as they struggled to escape the crowd and panted, stumbling, up the side of the mountain to answer that call.

  3. After Jesus had called the chosen ones to Himself, He appointed them and gave them authority, but sending them out to preach and to drive out demons was secondary. Did you notice that? Those exciting adventures come after the appointment  to “be with Him.”

The Power of With

How often we lose the powerful simplicity of “being with”.

You may have noticed this isn’t the first time I have talked about being. That’s because I need to hear it myself, over and over again.

I don’t know WHY I need continual reminders that the doing always and only flows from the being, but I do.

Can you relate to that?

Those reminders ground me, pull me back to center, and reignite my desire to cultivate a Mary heart in a Martha world.

The power of with means we connect with the source of life, joy, peace, and strength.

It means we are never alone.

The power of with, of course, is the power of the risen Christ living in us.

You Are Called.

Are there parallels between the disciples’ story and ours? I think so. The image of Jesus calling His chosen ones out of the masses speaks volumes and applies to us in this century as well. His original followers had to choose to separate themselves from the group to answer that call. They had to say “no” to living hidden, safe, anonymous, and low-risk lives. They had to break away from the status quo to be able to follow Jesus.

We are not on the original team of 12, but God has chosen us too and sent as His ambassadors.

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. (John 15:16, NIV)

We too must struggle through the morass of mediocrity and separate ourselves to truly follow our Lord. While can worship in a congregation, we must follow on our own. To embrace a lifestyle of discipleship is a daily, ongoing, personal choice.

You Are Appointed to Be With Him.

Like the disciples, our first and foremost appointment is to “be with Him”. Jesus calls sitting with Him and listening to His voice the one thing that is necessary:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.

 

She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ ” (Luke 10:38-42, NIV)

Our primary job description and mission in life is to “be with”.

He is calling each of us up to the mountainside to be with Him. And it does seem like an uphill climb to choose seeming inactivity and passive verbs such as “sit” and “listen”, doesn’t it? Even so, what starts out as a discipline He soon transforms into the joy of His presence, life, and love.

The Power of With

You Have Been Sent to Go Share His Life With Others.

I am still immersing myself in Henri Nouwen’s classic, The Life of the Beloved. I absolutely love what he says about our being chosen by God. Yes, Jesus chose you to come up to the mountainside to be with Him; He chose me.

Henri Nouwen says,

“Instead of making us feel that we are better, more precious or valuable than others, our awareness of being chosen opens our eyes to the chosenness of others. That is the great joy of being chosen: the discovery that others are chosen as well.” (The Life of the Beloved, p. 63).

In accepting our position as specifically chosen and beloved, we see the value of all. We become joyful ambassadors to help others see that they, too, are the beloved. He goes on to say,

“It is only when we have claimed our own place in God’s love that we can experience this all-embracing, noncomparing love and feel safe, not only with God but also with all our brothers and sisters” (The Life of the Beloved, pp. 64-65).

We have much in common with the disciples, when you look at it that way. It’s the same struggle to extricate ourselves from the crowds so that we can be with Jesus. He then sends us back into the crowds with the message that He’s calling them, too.

The power of with is the power to give what we have so freely received. Click To Tweet

Together, let’s embrace our calling and ask God to show us someone this week who needs His power and love.

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey

5 Things God Wants You to Know About His Love

Happy Valentine’s Week, everyone!

We all have a need to be recognized as special and chosen. Valentine’s Day may have provided such an experience for some of us, while for others it may have had the opposite effect.

Chocolates and flowers are nice, if short-lived. The chocolates turn into an extra pound on the hips; the flowers wilt and are eventually thrown into the garbage. In some instances, the “love” that inspired such expressions doesn’t last much longer.

Nonetheless, even transient expressions of fickle emotions make lasting impressions on the heart.

5 Things God Wants YOU to Know About His LoveI have forgotten much of my fourth-grade year, but I distinctly recall that Valentine’s Day. A boy named Raymond completely surprised me with a large, yellow, heart-shaped box of chocolates and a huge stuffed dog. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Raymond, but the experience of having been chosen for such special treatment made a lasting impression. Predictably, I wasn’t “chosen” for long, but I enjoyed that fleeting moment of public glory – there was no hiding that oversize dog or the fact that someone (at least temporarily) thought I was special.

Naturally, many more Valentine’s Days have since come and gone with no fanfare or stuffed dogs of any size or variety.

Feelings of being special and chosen tend to wax and wane with the effort others put into making me feel that way.

Can you relate to that?

More importantly, are those feelings a reliable interpretation of our “specialness”? Are we more loved and special when others take the time to make us feel so? Are we less loved when the fount of expression runs dry?

One of the books I am reading this month is Henri Nouwen’s classic, Life of the Beloved.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I don’t even remember who recommended that I read it, but if it was you, I thank you.

In this timeless book, Henri Nouwen compellingly introduces the concept of being chosen:

“…we have been seen by God from all eternity and seen as unique, special, precious beings.” (page 53, Life of the Beloved)

He goes on to say that long before our parents ever thought of us, we were lovingly designed by the God who sees us as infinitely beautiful and valuable.

You might be wondering along with me why, if that is so, we so often don’t feel that way.

Henri Nouwen responds to our unspoken question:

“The great spiritual battle begins – and never ends – with the reclaiming of our chosenness.” (page 58, Life of the Beloved)

I can relate to that.5 Things God Wants YOU to Know About His Love

We know it; the truth is at home in our minds.

We feel it occasionally.

The rest of the time, we’re not so sure that we have been chosen by anyone, for anything.  We must reclaim our chosenness.

May I invite you to reconsider your chosenness and the infinite love of the God who chose you?

Five Things God Wants You to Know About His Love

1. His love is not blind.

He chose to create you and love you with full knowledge of everything you would ever do. He already knew your worst day, ugliest thoughts, worst sins, and nastiest attitudes and none of that stopped Him from choosing you.

Ephesians 1:4, “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” (NIV, emphasis mine)

2. His love is extravagant.

He chose to lavish it on you, not to parcel it out in small doses as rewards for good behavior.

1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” (NIV)

His love for you is not dependent on what you do. Ever. You are already chosen, and He has already lavished His love on you!

3. His love is constant.

God is not fickle. His love won’t die like Valentine roses, and He is not going to get tired of you one day and change His mind. Nothing can stop that love – it endures forever.

1 Cor 13:8 “Love never fails…” (NIV)

4. His love is permanent.

Nothing can ever remove you from His love.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV)

5. His love is proven.

He isn’t all talk and no action. He shows that His love is intentional and substantial by choosing to express it irrevocably before we were even inclined in His direction.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

These, my friend, are facts.

Our fleeting feelings of specialness based on the behavior of others are nothing but vapor.

You are chosen and cherished, and you always will be.

Relax and rejoice in that knowledge today, and while you’re at it, share it with someone who needs to hear that they, too, are chosen and cherished.

 

 

Rejoicing in God’s love,

The Beautiful Journey

Why You Need to Live a Nourished Life: The Art of Self-Care

The Problem: Running on Empty

How is the pace of your life affecting you?

I would be willing to bet that you, like a myriad of your peers, have commented that it sure isn’t slowing down.

Many people feel flung, full-throttle, from event to event (or crisis to crisis) with barely a chance to catch their breath in the hard-won quiet spaces in between.

I can relate.

Life drains us like a colander. At times, we have ourselves to thank because of poor choices or lack of boundaries. Other times, through no fault of our own, we come up empty before we run out of hours of day because multiple stressors and crises converge at once, and with each one, we feel more of our vital resources draining away.

The long-term result, for far too many people, is running on empty.

Why You Need to Live a Nourished LifeDisturbingly, responses to this state of chronic depletion include glamorizing it (such as in popular blingy hats or t-shirts that state sentiments about running purely on caffeine), spiritualizing it (applauding those who chronically work to the point of burnout in church work), and normalizing it (”everyone else lives the same way…”).

Living in a state of chronic and utter exhaustion should not be considered normal, super-spiritual, or desirable.

Donna M. White, LPCI, CACP says in her article “Avoiding Emotional Exhaustion” that emotional exhaustion happens when we exceed our capacity for emotional stress.  Signs of it include:

“Low tolerance to stress or stressful situations; inattentiveness; lack of motivation; and physical fatigue.”

Does any of that sound like a prescription for effective living? It doesn’t to me, either! So why in the world do so many people embrace it as normal? Seeing the same look of desperate exhaustion mirrored back through the eyes of our peers should not be translated as “this is how it should be”.

The Remedy: The Art of living nourished

No one else is responsible for my overall well-being.

It’s not the job of the government, my family, my friends, my doctor, or my pastor.

The care of my three-part being (spirit, soul, and body) is up to me.

The problem is, if I neglect self-care in any of those areas, I will not feel the impact alone. Others will also suffer.

If I go to the gym daily and eat a clean and healthy diet but starve my spirit so that it shrivels up like a raisin, I can be sure that those around me will feel the effects.

I can spend most of my day reading the Word, praying, and ministering but if I neglect my body – filling it with junk food, gallons of Why You Need to Live a Nourished Lifesoda or sugary tea, and never get enough sleep – I am not making choices that will likely benefit my children or the Body of Christ long-term. If I desire to live to see my kids graduate, marry, have children, and fulfill God’s plans for their lives, then I need to take care of my body like I want it to last more than 5 more years.

My soul (mind, will, and emotions) needs care as well. I can challenge my mind and inspire it, improve my education, better my relationships, and grow in many different ways if I choose to do so.

Growth is a by-product of health. Health, in an overly simplistic sense, is the result of keeping the right things in and the wrong things out.

That is what we must do for ourselves.

Self-Care Does Not Equal Caring Only For Yourself

The issue with self-care is that it is either viewed as too self-oriented or becomes an end unto itself.

Let me be totally clear here: self-care is not selfish UNLESS it becomes an excuse for self-indulgent living (one of the things Jesus accused the Pharisees of).

Self-care is caring enough about what God has entrusted me with AND about the others around me to live a nourished life SO THAT I have enough reserves to live on and to share.

The “so that” is the ticket.

Why You Need to Live a Nourished LifeNot “so that” I can be perfectly comfortable and happy all day and never go out of my way for anyone because that would involve inconvenience, but “so that” I can fulfill what God has called me to do.

Yes, we should spend ourselves on behalf of the Kingdom. But when we are spent, we need to nourish spirit, soul, and body and be refilled.

Mark 6:31 says: “But so many people were coming and going that Jesus and the apostles did not even have a chance to eat. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go to a place where we can be alone and get some rest.” (English Contemporary Version)

Jesus frequently went off by Himself to be alone with the Father and to refuel after draining ministry sessions.

Do you hear the voice of Jesus calling you away to be with Him and to rest?

Choose to Live a Nourished Life

Life probably isn’t going to slow down or get any easier.  It’s time to pace ourselves for the duration so we can finish strong!

If you needed someone to give you permission to build self-care into your schedule SO THAT you can live out your calling more effectively, then consider yourself energetically encouraged to do so.

What are some of the reasons we ignore this need? Is it easier to continue living on the fumes of stale coffee than it is to shove some items out of our boat? Does guilt play a role in keeping us from caring for ourselves so that we can better care for others? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment if you’d like to share your thoughts or ideas for self-care, and let’s talk about how we can encourage ourselves and those we love to begin to live nourished lives.

“Gracious Heavenly Father, you see each one reading this post, and you know all they are trying to juggle. Draw individual to Yourself in the invitation to come away to be with You and to rest in You. Help us to see where we can build nourishing routines into our schedules so that we can refuel in order to live more effectively for you. We are so grateful to You for your loving care. Amen.”

Now go build some nourishing routines! 🙂

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey

Are You a Promise Reader or a Promise Reaper?

Promise Reader or Promise Reaper?

What is God calling you to this year?

Into what new territory is He leading you?

Will you be able to make the advances He’s asking you to make?

A good indication of our readiness to advance is to determine whether we are promise readers or promise reapers.

A promise reader reads God’s promises, gives mental assent, and goes on with their day unchanged.

A promise reaper takes the necessary action on God’s Word to see it become reality in her life.

When God promised the Israelites a land of their own – a wonderful, abundant land flowing with milk and honey – they had to take very decisive action to possess it, requiring both faith and courage.

God didn’t hand the Promised Land over on a silver platter.

Quite the contrary. Instead, God told them something like this: “This is what I have prepared for you. Now go fight for it, be victorious, and it’s all yours.”

In the spirit realm, The Promised Land was earmarked for the Israelites – their promised inheritance.

In the natural, it was inhabited by big, scary people who weren’t particularly disposed to hand it over without a fight.

The Promised Land was prepared, and victory was predicted, but possession had to be fought for.

The Israelites had to become promise reapers. How?

How to Become a Promise Reaper

Faith, courage, and obedience were the catalysts to move them from their side of the Jordan River to the side where God wanted them.

All the courage and faith in the world would not have moved them one centimeter closer had they not also taken action and obeyed.

Likewise, obeying without faith in God to keep His word and without the courage that springs from faith would have been displeasing to God.

Each of the three – faith, courage, and obedience – were a necessary part of the correct response to God.

Just like the ancient Israelites, we also grow into the promises of God by the very act of possessing them – the act of exercising our own faith, courage, and obedience.

The act of pursuing God and His kingdom changes us and makes us fit to receive it and maintain our victory.

Many people wait for God to change them SO THAT they can pursue Him.

Perhaps the pursuit itself is the catalyst for transformation.

Perhaps in the very act of obeying, we are changed.

Are you stuck in the No Man’s Land between preparation and possession?

Do God’s promises of abiding peace, joy, and victory sound too good to be true?

They don’t have to.

Build your faith by remembering that the same God who promised to give the Israelites victory to inhabit the place He prepared for them is also on your side. Peace, provision, the presence of Jesus – He promises these and many other things to His disciples. Courageously pick up your sword in simple trust and obedience and enter the realm of promises.

 

3 Steps to Enter Your Promised Land:

 

1. Identify the promised territory.

God’s Word is replete with promises. What is your need? Where do you need an overflow of God’s presence?

Promise Reader or Promise Reaper?

 

2. Engage your weapon – the Sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God.

Promise Reader or Promise Reaper?

Find Scriptures that address what you need. For example, if your number one desire is to vanquish anxiety and have more peace in your life, find and write out Scriptures that address peace.

3. Act – Step out in faith-filled and courageous obedience, knowing that God WILL do His part.

Use the Scriptures you found to battle for your promised land. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Obey it. Pray it. It works.

Promise Reader or Promise Reaper?

Congratulations! You have made forward progress into the incredible destiny God has for you! Rejoice in this victory, but don’t let down your guard. Maintain your position by being alert and fighting border skirmishes. The enemy would love to creep back in and steal ground, eventually crowding you out. Don’t let him!

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey

A Day at the Forge: Are You in the Fire?

A Day at the Forge

Last weekend, my family and I said goodbye to our normal Saturday activities, donned safety glasses, work belts and hammers and drove to an open forge event hosted by our local blacksmith association. The resident blacksmiths handed us skinny rectangular sticks of metal and announced we would be transforming them into BBQ forks.

Utter incredulity must have shown in my eyes as I eyed the extremely unforklike piece. Would they be handing out magic wands as well? Perhaps it was possible to simply stab a steak with the sharp corner of the metal rectangle and call it a “modern art”?

Are You in the Fire?In spite of my extreme doubt, my partner for the day (my dauntless 13-year-old daughter) seemed completely unfazed, as did the rest of my family. Their confidence caused me to suspect this feat might just be possible. They had, after all, been to this event once before. I was a rank beginner.

And as Darren Bush teaches on his Art of Manliness website, there are 4 things a beginner blacksmith needs:

“ A thing to heat your work, a thing to hold your work, a thing to put under your work, and a thing to apply forces to your work.”

We split up into pairs and got to work. As I began to get a bit more comfortable with the process of heating the steel, working it, and heating it again, I began to notice the spiritual applications of what was happening around me.

The 4 Things A Blacksmith Needs

1. A thing to heat your work

This was my favorite place to be – in front of the forge. It was an uncharacteristically cold day for South Texas and I was grateful for every moment I got to spend standing near the heat source! A hand-crank fan moved air to make the fire hotter, and the glowing bed of coals sat ready to receive the metal and heat it so it could be worked.

In the spirit realm, I’m not naturally drawn to the fire – to the trials used to shape me. Probably you aren’t either.

We don’t want to suffer (or even be uncomfortable!) because God didn’t create us for suffering. He made us for the Garden, before the Fall.  He created us for the home Jesus is even now putting the finishing touches on for us. But between now and then, we need to be sanctified, made holy.

If we want to work metal without cracking it, it needs to be hot.  We too need the forge fire to heat us up and make us malleable so that God can accomplish His work in us.

2. A thing to hold your work

Hot metal + bare hands = sizzling pain. They say every blacksmith either has been burned or is waiting to get burned. Our 11-year-old son was the family burn victim for the day, unconsciously making a grab for something with his ungloved hand. Ouch! He learned quickly the importance of tongs – something to hold your work. Or gloves on BOTH hands. When you and I are in the fire, our Heavenly Father is the one holding the work – putting us in the heat and removing us at the right time. We are safe in His hands. He doesn’t stick us in the coal and leave us there to be destroyed. He is in control of the entire process, the entire time. And He doesn’t make mistakes and need to scrap His work and begin anew.

His care is infinite, His purposes sure, and His timing perfect.

3. A thing to put under your workAre You in the Fire?

The anvil is a critical component of blacksmithing. If you don’t believe it’s necessary, try hammering a red-hot piece of metal on your kitchen table and see what happens! The anvil – solid and unmoving and able to take the heat without itself being changed – is the foundation for the work to be done.

I see this foundation in the spirit realm as the knowledge that God is good and that He loves you. This is the only foundation that can take the heat and the hammering without buckling under the pressure.

On it, we can trustfully endure the process without fear, knowing that we are held in the hand of our Father, on the sure and strong place of the knowledge of His loving goodness.

4. A thing to apply forces to your work

Don’t we all love to whack at things with a hammer now and then? I have to admit, my favorite part of making our Christmas peppermint bark is crushing the starlight mints with a mallet. The art of blacksmithing is more about precision and control than about smacking the daylights out of everything, but a good hammer is a basic tool for every smith. I believe God works on us the same way – with precision and control, applying just the right amount of pressure at precisely the place that needs it.

The Miracle

The miracle occurred – the transformation of a stick of steel into a reasonably nice looking and functional tool. It didn’t happen easily and it didn’t happen painlessly, but at the end of the day we were all happy with our creations and looking forward to returning next month.

The miracle happens in our lives too. God patiently and painstakingly conforms us to the beautiful image of Christ as we allow Him to work in us.   Over time, we begin to see the wonderful results.

Can we refuse to allow this to happen?

Sure we can.

Trials and tribulations happen to everyone. We don’t get to sign up for the trial of choice or refuse the package at the door.

But we can allow ourselves to become bitter and unmalleable in God’s hands. This does no one any good – it doesn’t get us OUT of the trial, it just ensures that we will likely have to repeat it later!

A better response is humble, trusting acceptance.

Three helpful things to know when you’re in the fire:

  1. You are safe, even when it hurts. God is in control of how much, how long, and how intense.
  2. You are loved, and His love means there is great purpose in your trial.
  3. You are not going to be here forever. Trials always end.

The final results will not be revealed until we are finally home, but when they are, what joy we will know for every moment we submitted and allowed God to perfect us.

I’m praying for you that for the joy set before you, you will patiently endure until the day of His return.

If you would like to read more about how to face the forge fire of trials victoriously, you’ll want to read this excellent post by my friend Leisa Lorenz!

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey