Archives for January 2012

That’s a Relief

THE SITUATION (And no, it’s not found in Jersey)
One of the biggest obstacles to living a better story can be fear!  (At this point you can all roll your eyes as you picture bungee jumping and moving to South America.  Duh, Ginger.)  But I’m not even talking about THAT kind of fear, although it is very real.

I’m talking about the kind of fear that comes from wanting to follow rules.  As a rule-follower by trade I know all about wanting to make the right choices, to only choose things that align PERFECTLY with God’s plan for my life.

Here’s the problem with that – we only get to discover God’s plan as it unfolds, and not before that!  Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a “God App”?  It could tell me (just like GPS) where to turn, how fast to go, and how long it will take me to get there.

But part of having a God who loves us enough to give us freedom, is learning to live and move within that freedom.  So what, we just take a step forward and hope we don’t fall into some pit?

Yes.  (Kind of.)

God gives wisdom to those who seek it!  This doesn’t guarantee a perfect track record for any of us, but it should hopefully add some more hope and confidence to move forward trusting that He is powerful enough to teach us and take us where we need to be!

“If you call out for insight
   and cry aloud for understanding,
 and if you look for it as for silver
   and search for it as for hidden treasure,
 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
   and find the knowledge of God.
 For the LORD gives wisdom,
   and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. 
For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 
Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”  Proverbs 2:3-6, 9-10

Do you have a big decision in front of you this week?  Ask the SOURCE of wisdom to pour it out generously.  He loves to give good gifts.

Living out His Story,

With the rest

“Make the most of your talents, and trust God with the rest.  These words ring true…

Most of the people I know, myself included, haven’t done so well with the trusting God with the rest.  Many of my friends and I find trusting, in one area of life if not another, tough.

But… what I’ve discovered is that the Talent Giver isn’t twisted; he is gracious.  His response to both our repentance over our foolish failings and our regret over our earnest missteps is surprising.  Our messed-up views of ourselves or him, our misused talents in work or life, and our quiet line crossing do not elcit harshness.  Instead, he forgives at a cost to himself, draws us near, and beckons us to continue with him.  Somehow he turns our mistakes- our stumbling blocks- into stepping -stones for the journey forward… we’re set free to do the best we can with what we have and grow to trust God with the rest.” –Connally Giliam, Revelations of a Single Woman

Question: Do you ever fear that your choices will throw God’s plan out of wack?  Do you fear making big decisions because you think you will choose the wrong option?

This week we are going to talk about our choices, our talents, and thankfully… our freedom.

Listening and following,

Friday Finds: Simple Joys

I love words.  I just started the millionth journal of my life this week.  My journals are filled with quotes, clippings, letters, verses, lists, plans, prayers, hopes, needs, dreams… you name it.

As I’ve prepared for our joy series this week I’ve jotted a few quotes down about joy and being satisfied in the Lord in my journal.  I hope they bring you encouragement today!

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” -Madeleine L’Engle

“There’s nothing more contradictory than an unenthusiastic Christian. The Bible tells us that God loves us so much, in fact, that God gave his only son so that all who believe in him will have everlasting life. Nothing not even death can separate us from God’s love! If we really believe that, we can’t help but overflow with joy!”  -Ronald Newhouse

“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.” -John Piper

With much joy,

Thursday Tips: I’ve got the Joy

I’ve spent a lot of time this week talking about how the true source of joy is not something that can be purchased or won.  Joy comes from our Father in Heaven.

But do we really believe that?  Do we really live like that?

I think a lot of people (myself included) don’t invest the time in our relationship with God because we just don’t want to put forth the effort.  We start to read the Bible but find it to be confusing.  We try and pray but end up feeling discouraged when we can’t remain focused.  We spend our time with God going through motions rather than ENJOYING His presence.

Intimacy with God requires work .  It’s like marriage.  If all of my effort went into the wedding and then I just stopped communicating with my husband, my relationship would be a disaster.  The wedding is a tiny part of a life-long journey together.

Look, we’re all at one of two places.  We have either entered into a relationship with God or we are still debating whether or not to say “yes” to His proposal.  Regardless of your relationship status at this point, I can’t encourage you enough to take the time to get to know the other half.  My hope and prayer is that the more time you spend getting to know your Heavenly Father the more confident and joyful you will be in that relationship.

God INVITES us to trade in the busyness and emptiness for what will really satisfy.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

I know.  You’re right.  We are busy.  Even when we don’t have activities we fill our time with magazines, tv shows, shopping, video games – but very rarely do we schedule in more time with the Lord.

When it comes to hearing from God, His word is a primary source AND it’s a filter for the messages that bombard our hearts and minds each day.  God’s Word is like a megaphone to his people.  We recognize his voice best when we spend time listening to what He has to say through the Bible on a daily basis.

Not sure where to start?  Check out this retro Thursday Tip that’s all about loving God’s Word.

Dig in and eat up!

Following and listening,

Joy like Christmas Morning

Yep, that’s your’s truly relishing in the first few moments of Christmas morning.  My eyes are a cross between total joy and total sleep deprivation.  Oh, Christmas morning…

I want you to think of something that you really wanted for Christmas when you were a kid.  Make sure you choose something that you actually ended up receiving!  It should be the kind of gift that made it difficult for you to sleep on Christmas Eve.  You couldn’t wait for it.  When you discovered that very gift waiting for you in the morning you began hyperventilating and being terribly overdramatic.  (Wait, was that just me?)  Ok, have you picked something yet?  Did you choose your most-desired Christmas gift?  Good.

New question: Did you wake up thinking about that Christmas item this morning?

Isn’t it amazing that something that held so much JOY all those years ago is now lost and forgotten.  Maybe the memory of it put a smile on your face.  But the truth is that stuff (no matter how cool in the moment) just doesn’t bring lasting joy.

But what about the huge trampoline that was waiting in the backyard in 4th grade?  I don’t think I even asked for it.  It was an AMAZING surprise that brought joy to my siblings and I (and let’s face it, the whole neighborhood) for years.  But like everything else, the trampoline wore out, fell apart, and eventually made it’s way to the trash.

Even if you enjoyed your favorite item for a few years, it doesn’t hold the same daily joy for you now.

So if we want joy like Christmas morning, do we simply continue to replace the old stuff with the new stuff?

I would challenge that rather than changing out our stuff, we need a change of heart and mindset.  God is always in the business of changing us from the inside out.  He desires for us to find real and lasting joy- something that’s done by spending time in His presence.  It’s totally contrary to the solution the world would give us.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2. 

I tend to lose joy when I put all the focus on me.  Joyless living is all wrapped up in self-focus and selfishness.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  Philippians 2:3-4 

We fill up on joy when we fill up on the good stuff.  Satisfaction and joy in Jesus can be a reality.  The more we’ve been satisfied by God’s love, His Word, and His presence, the more we will yearn for it.  On the other hand, we can spend so much time away from the Lord and His spiritual food and drink that we may no longer feel hungry or thirsty.

“’Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.’”  Isaiah 55:2.

Have you ever filled up on chips or bread at a restaurant to the point of not being able to eat the main course?  When we choose to fill up on appetizers, we don’t have room for the meal that will truly satisfy us.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Psalm 34:8

When we fill up on His Word we carry a weapon for the offensive – the sword.  David said, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”  Psalm 119:11.

The more we know God’s Word, the quicker we recognize Satan’s attempts to cover up that truth… the truth that says HE is the source of joy.  Spend time with the Lord this week.  Rather than asking him to be with you, why don’t you draw near to him?  He’s always waiting.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

Finding joy,

Drink Up

“What has happened to all your joy?” Galatians 4:15, NIV

I just finished my first run in over a week.  It wasn’t pretty.  I finished out of breath and a little sore.  On top of that I was parched.  I headed straight for the fridge and pulled out a Coke.

FALSE!  Not even a little bit true. 

When I finish a long run I head for a glass of water, not Coke.  Coke dehydrates.  As good as it might taste with pizza, it does absolutely nothing to restore my body or quench my thirst after a run.  I know that.

I also know that when I have a bad day and I’m feeling bummed, the temptation is to turn to eating, shopping, T.V., phone calls, and even exercise to relieve my mood and restore my joy.  Something in my brain says, “If you can just head to Sonic and get a Route 44 Diet Coke, you will FEEL better.  I’ll be happier, more content… I’ll find my joy.”  But like grabbing a Coke after my run, it just doesn’t seem to work.

But here’s what the Bible has to say… here is God’s RX for joy.

God’s Love
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11, NIV

God’s Presence
“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”  Acts 2:28, NIV

God’s Word
“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, 
for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16, NIV

So go fill your prescription.  Spend some time with the Lord today and let Him give you joy that is so much deeper, richer and fuller than anything money can buy!

Need somewhere to start reading?  Check out this passage.

Following and listening,

Buying Joy


“We try to get [joy] through entertainment.  We pay someone to make jokes, tell stories, perform dramatic actions, sing song.  We buy the vitality of another’s imagination to divert and enliven our own poor lives.  The enormous entertainment industry in America is a sign of the depletion of joy in our culture.  Society is a bored, gluttonous king employing a court jester to divert it after an overindulgent meal.  But that kind of joy never penetrates our lives, never changes our basic constitution.  The effects are extremely temporary- a few minutes, a few hours, a few days at most.  When we run out of money, the joy trickles away.” -Eugene Peterson


This week is all about our stuff.  The good, the bad, and the joyless living.  Question for the week: When you have a bad day, what’s your typical routine to restore the joy?  Shopping?  Eating?  Exercising?  What’s your go-to fix?

Following and listening,

Friday Finds: Fix Your Eyes

Run the race with perseverance.

Make the most of your time.

Fix your eyes on the prize.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Today’s Friday Find is a visual picture of everything we discussed this week. A video by Elevation Church…

Run fast and run hard, my friends.

Running, following & listening,

Thursday Tips: Getting Started

As I was lamenting the hill that we were tackling somewhere around mile 9 of the race this past weekend, I looked over and read a sign that was being held high over the crowd.  It read:


So true.  As with any goal, physical or spiritual, taking that first step is going to be the most challenging!  Once we get the hang of things we generally fall into a rhythym.

I know, sometimes picking up your Bible can be the equivalent to starting to train for a marathon.  We don’t know where to start, it seems to big, and we’ve been burned out in the process before.  But that’s why I wanted to share a tip today that has helped countless people of all ages get started in their Bible reading goals.  This is a retro post (originally posted in July of 2011), but the count on the viewership tells me that only my family and a few friends caught this one.

I hope you’ll check it out and share your own personal training tips in the comment section for other runners/readers!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24, NIV


When Time Matters

As we talk about the currency of time this week, I couldn’t help but point out the giant metaphor staring me right in the face.

I ran a half marathon this weekend.  It was a first for me and something that’s been on my goal list for almost a decade.  I can’t tell you how great it felt to check it off the list.

That’s why racing is on the brain.

Goofy smiles.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul asks a very poignant question in this passage.  Why run a race if you don’t care about the prize?  I might rephrase it for our context and ask: Why live life without an ultimate purpose?  Hopefully our purpose is sure and we haven’t entered this race without a target goal in mind.

I’m not a runner, but I am a goal-setter.  Once I had a goal time in mind I wanted to do anything I could to hit it.  I didn’t run aimlessly, determining that “when I get there I get there.”  Instead my running partner mapped out our time goals mile by mile and we focused on hitting the finish within a specific window of time.

Our race had tons of things that could have slowed us down.  There were bands on every corner, people dressed in crazy costumes, and some hills that threatened to slow our pace.  But we kept the music cranked and our faces forward.  And rather than stopping for water or fuel, we carried what we needed the whole race.  We stuck to the center, kept the goal in mind and just ran. 

It’s so important for us to stay focused on the goal set before us.  We know that there are a million things vying for our time.  If our desire is to know Him more, then we need to do whatever we can to succeed in that goal.  When we spend time with the Lord we need to be ready to run past distractions.  Turn off phones and close computers.  Even if that time is just in the shower, give Him your full attention in that moment.

Paul uses the race metaphor again beautifully:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:12-14, NIV

This is a life-long training process, but the time invested will be worth every minute spent in pursuit of the King of Kings.  Let’s keep our eyes on the prize!

“Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.”  Hebrews 12:1-3, GWT

Running the Race,