Productivity

I have this little planner that I affectionately refer to as “My-Brain-On-Paper”.  Where I go, it goes.  I write everything in there.  My dates with friends, reminders for work, my daily to-do list, and the daunting “long-list” that keeps lengthening with low priority items that simply can’t be forgotten.  Every now and again, I gasp thinking I lost or misplaced my precious planner.  For the few mini-seconds I get that panicked fluttered feeling (like that feeling when you lock your keys in your car) as I frantically search for it.  What would I do if I lost My-Brain-On-Paper?  And then… I find it.  My sanity is restored. 

I love this planner because it keeps me on track and helps me find a way to manage my spinning head and all-to-frequent forgetfulness.  My ink, tattooed all over its pages, unashamedly trespass margins, revealing evidence of not only the busyness in my head, but the busyness of my days.  The hope, though, is that this planner doesn’t aid in my busyness but that it generates productivity.  Productivity is often equated with busyness, but that is a façade.  It is very easy to become quite busy in life, often with things that are “good” but it is even easier to miss that these things are not always what matter the most.  Day after day, we can rush from one thing to the next all the while missing prosperous moments of productivity because distractions and unnecessary commitments have already called dibs.

Many of us have felt God’s call on our life to do more, charge forward, make a difference…etc. the list goes on.  God has a beautiful way of placing callings on the soul that are tailored fit to match the specific, unique, one-of-a-kind “you.”  Quickly we can become so busy with life that we fail to be productive in the main call He has asked of us.  The power of productivity is found in organization, intentionality, and prayer.

God is a God of order, not chaos.  Although, He continually works through chaos, He is a master designer.  Things have a purpose, place and direction towards peace.  “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).  We too were designed to mimic and desire this type of order.  When we can get some sense of order to our physical realm, whether that be our work space, our home, our grocery list, our laundry—we begin to feel a sense of peace.  It mentally resets our mind and opens up mental capacity to be fully present for what is at hand.  After God had created the earth, He rested on the seventh day.  After all the things that were once “formless and void” (Gen 1:2) had a proper place, space, and purpose, God rested and then continued on.  One of the best things we can do to be productive is take sometime to organize ourselves.  Take time to organize your thoughts.  Take mental inventory.  What’s done?  What needs done?  What can wait?  Organize your thoughts on a list.  Write it out.  Talk it out.  Put it on a calendar.  Whatever it takes for you to mentally organize, do it.  Then move on to physical organization.  What can you quickly put away?  What clutter can you reduce or move to its proper place?  What little task could you do that would clean up your work space or improve aesthetics? Do those things. When your mind is clear and your physical space is clear, you have prepared for more fruitful productive outcomes. 

Now it’s time to be intentional.  Prioritize what it is that is truly important.  Usually these things that matter most pertain to health, safety, family, work, and most importantly faith.  This is where it is essential to make the “main things, the main thing.”  Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  As you seek God first, He will give you direction.  Ask God, what is the call that He has placed on your heart?  What is the thing you feel an urgency to be productive in?  What is something you know needs done before all other things?  God will help you figure out your priorities.  Be intentional about the use of your time so that your priorities get accomplished.  Time is precious; don’t squander it with meaningless distractions.  Paul speaks to the Corinthians about Christian liberties when he says in 1 Cor. 10:23, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’–but not everything is constructive”  but this verse can also apply to intentionality.  We need God’s help to discern the difference between things that add more busyness and things that lead to productive fruit with the things to which He has given us stewardship.

Be in prayer about your productivity.  God cares about it all—big and small.  Commit your plans to the Lord.  Consecrate each day to Him.  “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps” Proverbs 16:1.  That is exactly where we need to walk, in the steps guided by the Lord.  Just like the miracle of the Jesus feeding 5000 people with a scarcity of fish and loaves of bread, so can Jesus multiply our time and enhance our productivity when we commit first to Him our plans.

If you need help being productive, start first on your knees.  Ask God for His guidance.  Then get up, pick up your pen, pick up your house, pick up the disorganized pieces and put order to the chaos.  Be intentional with your time and limit distractions so that you can run the race God has set out before you.  “ Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).  There is much work for you to do and role that only you can play.  Don’t waste time spinning your wheels in busyness.  Pursue productivity and feel His smile.

The Balancing Act

“When we stop getting down on ourselves for the failure to meet the superhuman expectations we place on ourselves and start allowing our superhuman God to fill our spirit, the beneficial results can be exponential.” (RAW, pg. 33)

The hectic-ness of busy-ness can distract us and keep us from God, family and even ourselves. What does it look like to not miss out on life yet step off the frenetic hamster wheel? Cassie Brown, from On Purpose Ministry, and I sat down to talk this out: watch video

“Jesus says, ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:33). If we do not seek first God’s heart, His kingdom, His presence, His righteousness, we will work backwards. We will do everything else in order to find His kingdom, His presence, His righteousness. We must first seek Him. We must first sit in His presence, at His feet, to know what He truly is calling us to sign up for, to volunteer with, and where to invest our time. We cannot know this if we do not sit with Him first…What is God telling you to cut out of your life? What God-ordained priorities are you missing because of busyness in society-ordained activities?” (The Prayer Crossing Personal Devotional, pg 9)

Where is God When Life Gets Tough?

I’m not sure if any of us are immune to the age old question of why does God allows bad things happen to good people? Is He still good? Can He still be trusted?

These are the hard questions to wrestle through in life and often a simple answer is hard to find. “Sometimes grief just overtakes you and your hollow bleeding heart despairingly agonizes, ‘Oh world, I cannot bear your torment!’ How can an all-seeing Father allow His children to walk into the pits of hell? How can A God who is considered good withhold His intervention at the time you needed Him the most? How? Why? Does anybody care?” (RAW, 157).

Last fall, I spoke with Cassie Brown, whose husband Nic Brown was in the ICU at Cleveland Clinic due to COVID, making national news for his miraculous recovery. We spent some time wrestling through this and what it looks like to trust God in as you walk through the fire. Click here to watch the video.

“I don’t always know why God allows such horrendous events to transpire, but I am learning that He is trustworthy. People commonly say, ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ but I would like to disagree. Instead, I think ‘God brings a reason from everything that happens.’ He is a God of redemption and restoration.” (RAW, 171)

If you would like to read more on this topic check out RAW Inner Workings of a Reawakened Soul and RAW Reawakened Soul Study Guide.

Would the real church please stand up?

Last fall I had the privilege of speaking with Cassie Brown from On Purpose Ministries. We dove into some interesting topics like why and how the church is still relevant. Maybe you’ve had a bad taste in your mouth from some church experience or people who claim to be Christians. Unfortunately, you are not alone. As you watch this video, be a part of the discussion with others wondering the same thing:

https://vimeo.com/466005077/86c4c23dd0

“Maybe the church has traded in the power that raised Christ from the dead for misperceived security and subtle complacency. Maybe fear of death, fear of persecution, fear of decreasing “numbers,” fear of losing money, fear of being rejected by society, fear of looking too conservative or too liberal,
fear of offending others, fear of having their plans thwarted, fear of
not being able to build the bigger and better building, fear of getting
stained by the sinners, fear of getting their good name smudged
by inner-city problems, fear of losing a member to another church,
fear of people backsliding, fear of not being able to control how the
congregation conducts themselves, fear of the cookie-cutter Christian
life looking like a misshapen pile of dough…fear, fear, fear….yes,
maybe, I’m afraid that fear has caused many American Churches to
begin to lose their way.”
RAW Inner Workings of a Reawakened Soul, page 81

Success and the eternal perspective

I have been trying to jump on the bandwagon with this thing people call, “healthy eating.”  I think it is quite possible Satan has embodied all chocolate cake, brownies, and cookies as I daily struggle to resist every tempting impulse to devour each offer of carby, sweet, deliciousness.  Bagel after muffin after decadent, beautiful piece of cheesecake scoff at me while I attempt to look the other direction.  Some days it’s near painful, but this year has been the year of food conviction and buttery bye-byes.  In February, I found out that significant heart disease runs not only on my mom’s side but also my dad’s, landing him in the Cleveland Clinic with quadruple bypass at age 59.  I began to realize that my days of temporal salivary enjoyment, free grazing, and uncommitted exercise would only increase my likelihood of disease in the years to come, so I began to make changes now, in hopes of a healthier future.

Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

The American society is often centered on personal, momentary happiness, indulgence, and getting what you want when you want it.  And I must confess—I kind of like that.  Most things are available at the click of a button and an Amazon prime delivery.  Just trying to find a simple tube of toothpaste can become complex because the options are so plentiful.  I am so thankful for the luxuries afforded to us in this land of milk and honey.  There’s no place I’d rather be, but I know this type of mindset has distracted us from eternal perspective.  It is so easy to live in the moment—plan for the day, week, or maybe even a month–but to plan for eternity…it seems even further than retirement.

Although we’re in a culture that deemphasizes future planning and preparation, the secret to success is found when people evaluate the future effects of their decisions and trust the One who holds their future.  Truly successful people maintain an eternal perspective.  They know that they’re playing a role in the kingdom of God and recognize that although the temptation is to make the here-and-now about themselves, it’s ultimately about glorifying God and planting seeds for eternity.

There’s a curious little story that always catches my attention when I read through Luke 5.  A man who was paralyzed wanted to reach Jesus so bad for healing that his friends cut a hole in the roof to lower him down into a crowded house just so that Jesus would be able to heal him.  You can see the determination of the friends as they try to get their friend the help he so desperately wanted: 

Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.   When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”  (Luke 5:18-20)

Every time I read verse 20, I can’t help but be caught off guard at Jesus’ response.  Clearly, the man wanted to be freed from his mat and no longer confined to the imprisonment of paralysis, but Jesus’ first response has nothing to do with this man’s physical needs.  Instead Jesus offers the man forgiveness of sins.  Huh?  If I were to imagine myself as the paralytic, I’d probably feel jipped at first.  I’d be thinking, “God, this isn’t what I asked for.  I wanted salvation now from my paralysis, not forgiveness.”  But like Jesus always does, He is takes the physical, temporal mindset, and flips it to the eternal because Jesus knows what this life is truly about.  He first dealt with the spiritual before fixing the physical.  Jesus is always trying to help us transcend beyond the physical, the material, the-here-and-now, and think about the purpose behind it all, which is to bring glory to God by sharing the truth of His goodness and forgiveness.

As you chase your dreams and pursue success, it is important to remember the grand cosmic plan that God is accomplishing in and through those who love Him.  It’s easy to get so caught up in personal promotion, fame, platforms, and accomplishments that we forget that there is something bigger, greater, and more purposeful playing out.  Slowly we can become increasingly self-focused, working tirelessly to build our own kingdom instead of God’s.  Psalm 127:1 reminds us that, “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”  When God is the chief architect of our lives, dreams, and achievements, then we have found true success. 

God is honored and glorified when we prioritize Him above all else.  He promises to take care of those who put Him first.  “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” Matthew 6:33.  Whatever successful outcome you are striving towards, be sure to always seek the Lord’s face first.  Hold your plans with an open hand, surrendering your will as you try your best to control the things you can control.  God will guide, bless, and direct your efforts as you keep an eternal perspective your focus.

Finding Success by Making the Most of Today

Do you every find yourself waiting for “Someday”?  “That allusive ‘Someday.’  Someday, when life isn’t so hard.  Someday, when I have more money.  Someday, when I’m not that busy.  Someday, when I get married.  Someday, when I have kids.  Someday, when I retire.  Someday, when my house is paid off.  Someday, when I get a chance to relax.  Someday, when things are easier.  Someday is like a dangling carrot.  You chase and hope, falsely believing you might actually get a chance to appreciate it.  But for some reason, it’s never within your grasp.  However, its possibility and potential seem so strong and so achievable that you continue to believe the lie that someday, life actually will get better.” (Excerpt from RAW Inner Workings of a Reawakened Soul pg.124)  It’s easy to succumb to the evasive chase of “Someday”—putting things on the back burner, waiting for a better opportunity or better timing to finally dust off those “great ideas” you’ve been wanting to do since forever ago. 

I am realizing that a successful life is not made up of major events and milestones.  Although, these are noteworthy successes and deserving of recognition, most of life is made up of the small moments in between.  Success doesn’t just happen.  It doesn’t just develop out of thin air.  Success is conceived, cultivated, and birthed from ordinary people making the most of today.  Successful people live the small moments of life with intentionality.  Whether it be the mundane tasks, the zillions of small conversations and passing comments, the Thursday night dinners, the Saturday morning soccer practice, the fiftieth load of laundry—there is an overarching drive to reach the goals set before them. 

Successful people have exposed the lie of “Someday” and embraced the power of “Today.”  Even though life is mostly composed of subtle, lack-luster, non-instagramable moments, it is in the present moment that the most potential exists.  Life builds on itself and although we cannot control many circumstances that impact our trajectory, we can control our goals, our priorities, and our plans.

Goals set the course for successful living.  When you chase after “Someday” you haven’t spoken your goal into existence.  “Someday” ambitions are soft deadlines and wishful thinking.  Goals are targets designed to help you aim straight and stay centered.  The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5).  Goals require diligence and vision.  “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18).  The successful person sets mini-goals for a day to reach the milestone goal ahead. 

Priorities help deter distractions.  So many things, even good and godly things, vie for our attention.  It’s hard to sort the “good” from the “best,” yet it is essential.  In order to capitalize on the potential of “Today,” we must clarify our priorities.  Maybe the priority is to complete one small task to your mini-goal.  Maybe the priority is to turn off the TV and spend quiet time praying about your next steps.  Maybe the priority is to write out a “to-do” list and stop the social media scroll or maybe it’s to exercise instead of munch on junk.  Prioritizing what is important to your goal helps you sort what to keep and what to nix, which can be hard to determine.  But always remember that your top priorities first and foremost, must include God.  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).  I’ve been there. I get it.  When life gets busy and dreams get big, the first thing to get slowly pecked down the priority list is God.  Resist the temptation, because more than ever He needs to be a part of your goal setting, priorities, and planning.  Cut out time (even if it is just a little) to talk and hear from God.  Surround yourself with a community of friends who will remind you of His truths and read the Good Book, even if it is only a paragraph a day.  We weren’t meant to live this life apart from Him—invite Him into your day.

Lastly, successful people plan.  They plan their day, they plan their week…they plan their year.  Time is precious so they know that unplanned days lead to squandered time and missed opportunities.  But as they plan, they keep an open hand—open to what God may change about their plans.  “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3).  People who prayerfully submit their plans to God, ensure that God is their true vision and receive His guidance every step of the way.  This is essential for true success.

Make today count.  There are no guarantees about tomorrow, the next month or next year so stop waiting for “Someday” and maximize the present.  And above all, don’t do it alone—let God be your “Daily Planner” as you press on toward your goals and His.  “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

Continuing the Discussion on Success…

Last year, I had the privilege of celebrating my Grandparent’s 64th anniversary.  64 years!  Can you imagine?  They have been married almost twice as long as I have been alive!  It seems like such a rarity these days, to find two individuals holding to the vows of “til death do us part.”  As we celebrated, I marveled at this richness, realizing these sacred moments are not commonly experienced.  It was a treasure worth beholding.

I am thankful for examples of commitment like my grandparents, because they have modeled to me the importance, power, and reward of faithfully completing that which was started.  It is so easy to get derailed by distractions and obstacles.  They threaten to sideline us and obscure our goal, often leaving us exhausted, injured, and unmotivated to finish our race.  My grandparent’s life was not always sunshine and roses.  They encountered trials and heartache, but they stayed the course and are now beautifully finishing the race.

If you want to have a successful marriage, business, ministry, education, career—whatever it may be—you must stay committed to the ultimate goal and committed to integrity.  It is a matter of mental fortitude and grit.  Often the biggest thwarters of our success stem from the battleground within our own mind.  Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  It is in our mind that our hearts are either infused with truth or destroyed by lies.  If there is a vision, dream, or goal God has cultivated in your heart, your mind has the power to grow it or squelch it.  You must identify the goal, the vision, or calling God has placed on your heart.  Maybe it is to finish school, become a mom, help your husband more, or volunteer for something at church.  You must first identify what this goal is, call it out, discern if it is God given and then… chase after it.  If you fail to identify your goal, the vision becomes mucky making it that much harder to cling to truth and stay on course.  On the contrary, when you acknowledge that God is partnering with you in this goal, you can make efforts to renew your mind with truth so you can better chase the dream.

Driven people, striving towards success will often do whatever it takes to get the job done.  It is essential to make the necessary sacrifices and step up to the grueling demands required to get the task completed.  Success does not passively occur—it is an active process often demanding time, energy, and risk that you didn’t initially anticipate.  If you are deciding to go back to school, you may not get the class at the time you need, you may be paying more than you originally anticipated.  You may have to rearrange work or home schedules in order to fit it in.  If you are making a career change, you may have to temporary take lower pay than you had hoped, you may have to travel when you didn’t want, you may have a more inconvenient commute.  Successful people are able to stay determined and adaptable to the unforeseen challenges that come their way.

Although, a successful person will do what it takes to finish the race strong, they must never, ever elevate success at the expense of compromising integrity.  “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Matthew 16:26.  Many people will strive towards success—full of willpower and resolve—but many will do this at the cost their own integrity.  They will choose the career over their marriage, financially advance through a lie, or forget a promise as they shake on a new deal. 

King Solomon was raised to power by God to carry on the Davidic lineage and Kingdom.  God granted wisdom and great wealth to Solomon, and although Solomon remained dedicated and driven to the temple, he began to lose focus.  God had told Solomon not to intermarry with other woman of other religions who would pull him away from worshiping Him, the true God.  But Solomon became distracted and prideful, losing sight of God’s command.  Soon he would marry multiple woman and begin worshipping false gods. 1 Kings 11:9-11, “ The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command.  So the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.’  King Solomon gained what he thought was wisdom, power, and love but it was all for naught.  In his attempts to be successful, he morally fell and lost all that he worked so hard to obtain. 

As you cultivate the vision and goals that God has birthed in you, run your race with integrity and commitment.   Listen to God coach you as you renew your mind with His truths so as not to lose sight of the finish line.  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith,”  Hebrews 12:1-2.

Starting a series on Success

I have had the privilege of writing for On Purpose Ministries. One of the series I was asked to write about was on the topic of success. What a good challenge this was because in America, we want to measure everything by success. We often identify and categorize ourselves, finding worth and value, by our successes, but I would argue, God’s view of success is markedly different. I hope you enjoy this upcoming series about the nuances of success. (P.S. Some of you may have already read this because it was sent out accidentally in December…yes, I’m bad with technology 🙂 )

In the early days of my dating relationship with my now husband, we got in a philosophical discussion about what does it mean to be successful.  As we sloppily treaded through the nuances of the word “success,” we circularly argued whether it was profession verses skill or knowledge verses productivity or left-brain verses right brain.  I’m not really sure if we came to any conclusions that day–the tension was similar to that of a presidential debate.  Needless to say, we dated about three more years after that working through some of those differences.

How can such an apparent simple topic on “success” be fraught with such befuddlement?  I think the answer is that being successful is such a personal matter.  All of us want to be successful, but in our own right.  Just because I’m not a Quantum Mechanics Engineer or a Computational Chemist doesn’t mean that I am less successful.  Or does it?  Is the fast food worker more, less, or equally successful as a doctor?  Is a stay-at-home mom as successful as the women who was just announced CEO of a corporate business?  How you answer depends on who you are.  The topic becomes so personal, so challenging, and often so subjective.   Tangled up in these senseless comparative questions, insecurity sets in, inferiority complexes ignite, and frenetic striving can seem like the only option.

I have a hard time believing that when I get to Heaven and meet Jesus face to face, that He will be scaling my success on the giant “Career-Meter”—high scores for the brainiac’s and corporate climbers, low scores for the quote-on-quote “less accomplished.”  Yet if you look around society, we toil and race like our inheritance and self-worth depends on our earthly achievements.  Matthew 22:35-40, “One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied:  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 

Notice how the text says, “an expert in the law, tested him.”  The religious leaders were acting from a place of pride, attempting to trick Jesus into giving an answer that supported their fake piety and excessive striving.  But instead, Jesus didn’t fall to their scheme and instead turned a question of success into a subject of love.  Jesus didn’t dismiss there were commandments and He didn’t ignore personal responsibility, but He trashed the notion of formulaic accomplishments and boldly spoke about Lordship.

Successful people take responsibility for their lives within the context of submission before Christ.  “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36).  We can achieve so much in our careers, with our intellect, against all social injustices, but if we have accomplished it all apart from God, we have only achieved worldly success and may have forsaken eternal success.  The world will rate success based on education, paychecks, grades, and your uncanny ability to wear 97 hats– don’t get me wrong, these things are needed and beneficial.  But what about God?  Did we forget Him as we scurried along saving the world?

It is through obedience, stewardship, and love that we find success:

Stewardship:  We must take responsibility for what has been entrusted to us.  When we fail to risk, when we cease trying, when we choose to live with apathy, and ignore the God-given passions written on our hearts, we forfeit success.  When things don’t go as planned or when we fail in ways we couldn’t imagine, prayerfully take it to the Lord.  He will restore and renew. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10).

Obedience:  Do things as unto the Lord.  He has gifted you with your own unique beauty, creativity, and voice to add to this world.  He longs to partner with you to bring about success for you and success for His Kingdom.  Don’t get burdened by comparison, insecurity, thankless-ness, or mundanity because you don’t have to answer to people, you need only to answer to God.  When you go to God for your marching orders, the rest will fall into place.  Live fearlessly, except to fear God, and chase after the passions He’s given you and the open doors He’s provided.   “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).

Love:  Love the LORD with every part of your being.  Let that love permeate your speech, your thinking, your service to others, your work environment, your care for your family, your care for yourself.  Make His priorities, your priorities.  Prayerfully seek His direction and input so that your decisions are Kingdom seeking, rather than self-seeking.  “He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless” (Proverbs 2:7).

As you take responsibility for your own success, may you be able to remove the distractions surrounding you and run with arms back and heart abandoned towards the God who is 110 percent in your corner.

Lights on

“You are the light of the world.” I ran across this verse this week and when I first read it out of context from the Matthew 5 paragraph, I initially thought it was talking about Jesus being the light of the world. Yes, “He is our light,” I thought. Jesus, in all His beauty, easily radiates light; He lives up to this statement well. But after these brief mental meanderings and divinity declarations, I realized this verse was Christ-followers, believers…the Church (with a capital “C”).

light bulbs images | Light bulb art, Light bulb, Light bulb crafts

That’s quite an announcement, quite a proclamation! Jesus says, immediately following the sermon on the mount, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16).

I winced as my spirit churned inside me. “Are we?” I thought. “Are we really being the light?” So many opinions, so much self-promotion, so much anger, so much hatred, so much self-righteousness….so many ways we aren’t light. So many ways, personally, I’m not light. In that sacred moment of honest evaluation and divine conviction, I realized there is still hope.

God knows our failures as a “C”hurch, “c”hurch, and individual. He knows these failures very well even while we are still coming to self-awareness that, ah, yes, maybe we really aren’t all that good after all. But just like He told Peter that he would be the rock on which the church would be built, knowing that Peter would deny Him three times, so Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, knowing that our darkness will sometimes hamper the brightness.

This is our challenge, our goal. This is what we must strive for. Wake up, sleeper. Wake up, Church. Within us, is the same power that rose Christ from the dead. The Spirit of the living God resides in our hearts, in our lives. Oh, how we must shed our selfish shells and let the light shine. This world needs it! This nation needs it! It all comes back to Jesus– the source of all light, the source of all hope.

Remember the children’s song, “This little light of mine”? Don’t hide the Jesus in you from a world who needs it. Don’t put make-up and layers over the spirit of the living God dwelling within you. Live out your light. Shine in your home. Love in your workplace. Beam at the grocery store, in the traffic jams, in the heated conversations and hopeless frustrations…Be the light. Reflect the radiance of the Perfect One “who calls things that are not as though they are.” (Romans 4:17).

Happy New Year!

Today is the day to reflect, to dream, to pause. It is the day to recount God’s blessings and lay down our pride; to mark out our plans for the future yet savor our memories of the past. In the waking moments of 2021, the future is unknown, crisp and fresh. It may be full of sorrow, it may be full of joy but the promise remains the same:

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

That’s our God…Emmanual….the God who is with us. Always. To the very end.

May you feel the presence of God with you! May you invite Him in to each of your days. May you adventure with Emmanuel for He is with you! Happy New Year! Happy New Start! Happy New Day of hope, blessing, mercy, grace and divine presence. May you feel His love envelop you as you start your year afresh!

You hem me in behind and before,

and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 139:5-10