In a world filled with open doors of opportunities and obligations, how in the world are we supposed to know which doors to walk through?
Which ones are opportunities sent by God and which ones are obligations we have convinced ourselves we should do.
Pray for God to close doors. He won't close the ones that are from him.
It makes sense to me that the enemy of the world would want to confuse me with open doors that are not from God. So, it also makes sense to me if I pray for God to close doors, he's not going to close the ones that are from him!
When I feel confused by too many open doors, I remember this. God does not obligate me to anything. He has given me free will and the opportunity to choose him, love him, and serve him.
Opportunity is much different than obligation.
Today, if you are struggling with a decision, ask God to close doors. I assure you, the one that is left will be from him.
I often feel like social media has made my small world a little bit too big. I know too much information about too many people, all the time. Keeping up with all that can be a little stressful at times.
I think on some level I feel like if I *know* all of the trials (and joys) of my friends on social media, I am somehow responsible to care for or celebrate them. (Oh, the pressure)
But consider Jesus' example in Luke. Crowds of people came directly to him for healing. "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” ( Luke 5:15-16).
Jesus knew that taking the time to get alone and pray was as critically important as caring for those around him.
He wasn't being self-centered when he took time away from the crowds, He was being God-centered.
We can't care for others if we don't care for ourselves.
Friends, if you feel the need to take time away from the weight of social media connectedness for a little while, I encourage you to do it.
Spend that time walking, praying, journaling, singing and anything else that draws you closer to the heart of God.
You, and the people God has called you to care for, will be better for it.
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Jesus said, “Let NOT your heart be troubled.” Easier said than done, right? Sometimes life’s storms seem to come at you in waves, and just when it feels like you might catch your breath, you’re hit by another wave.
So how do we follow Jesus’ command to “not let our hearts be troubled?” I want to hide in my room and plan ever bad worst case scenario out in my mind and worry obsessively (we are being honest, right?) But I try to do what David did when he was holed up in a cave, surrounded by his enemies.
I “strengthen myself in the Lord my God.” I remind myself that God’s plan for my life is good, and then I pray a prayer of gratitude. I might say, “Lord, you know this thing has knocked me down, but I know you don’t want me to live down here. You have a plan, and I’m excited about it. Give me the strength to get up, catch my breath, and move on. ”
God’s plan for your life is a promise of grace. When your heart is troubled, cling to that promise.
"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you." Jeremiah 29:11
The season of Lent is here, the time when many of us are challenged to give up something in order to draw closer to God. Usually people give up foods they know they should give up anyway. (Goodbye Reese's Cups!)
But what if we gave up something less tangible (less edible at least)? For example, what if we gave up the crazy busy start to our day and instead took ten minutes to sit with God? Or what if we gave up binge-watching Netflix (talking to myself here) and spent some time pouring our heart out to Jesus and listening to him in return?
As you approach Lent, ask yourself, "What has captured my attention and pulled me away from time with God?" If it has your attention, it has your affection.
Friend, I want God to have my whole heart, and I know you do too.
Whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on those things. Philippians 4:8
Ever heard the expression, "It's the little things that get you down?" (Or in my case, the thing that drives you absolutely crazy?) It’s so true though, right?
One minute you’re going along, just fine, and then suddenly something small sends you into an irrational tailspin. That “little thing” becomes the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
For me, it’s rarely the small things that are the real problem in my life. The source of my frustration is that I have said “Yes” to too many things out of mom-guilt or out of fear that I’ll disappoint someone. When I do this, I let my overly busy schedule turn me into a woman that I don’t want to be.
Proverbs 25:4 says, “It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.” Can I get an amen? Friend, don't let your yes be the source of your stress.
He has created us to be so much more, not to do so much more.
Today, ask yourself what you have said yes to that you need to stop doing. Then with God’s guidance, make a plan to stop doing it. It won’t be easy, but it’ll help keep those molehills from turning into mountains.
I looked at my planner one Summer morning this year and realized **once again** I had filled every single free moment each day with something. Monday was a meeting at school, Tuesday was a doctor's appointment, Wednesday through Friday were flights and meetings for work, Saturday was research day for my new book, and Sunday had simply been penciled in, "Writing Day."
(Now, because my book talks a lot about Jesus I totally convinced myself that writing on Sundays was an excuse not to take a Sabbath. :)
As I looked at those days, there didn't seem to be a single thing I could take off my schedule. "What's a busy working mom to do," I asked myself. Immediately I remembered my devotional from that morning that said, "Rest one day."
I don't know how you interact with God, but sometimes I get a little bit sassy when I feel convicted about something, so I said, "That's easy for you to say. You're God. What do you suggest I take off my calendar?"
Of course, I know God isn't going to order my calendar. He's given me the ability to do that on my own. The secret to resting one day is to say no before every square on the calendar is filled up. It's so hard for me, to be sure, and I imagine it's a challenge for you.
But if we want God's best, we have to make rest a priority. The scripture says, By the seventh day God finished the work he had been doing. It doesn't say he finished all the work he would ever do.
God's best includes rest. It really is that simple. On the seventh day, he rested from all his work. Do you take a sabbath, a day of rest? If not, what would it look like for you to really take a whole day off?
That's your challenge this week, taking time off because God's best always includes rest.
PS - In case you're wondering, I combined research and writing on Saturday and on Sunday, I rested.
I was looking in my pantry the other day, and I couldn't help but think two things: "Boy do I need to buy groceries, and WOW this pantry is chaos!" Believe it or not, the two thoughts are related. When my life is a disorganized mess, it causes me stress. For weeks, I avoided the mess and the stress of my pantry, but in the end, I just made things worse for myself and my family. (You can only make canned peas and instant mashed potatoes go so far!)
I used to be the kind of girl that didn't really appreciate order. I bragged about my "organized chaos" all the time. "It might be a mess," I'd say, "but it's my mess." Over time, though, I realized my mess was stressing me out.
As I was praying one day, I felt God say to me, "Alli, I am a God of order. I *placed* the stars in the sky. I didn't just toss them out there willy nilly. (God uses words like willy nilly with me.) I knit you together in your mother's womb, which means I had a plan for you. I numbered the hairs on your head (talk about details). There is beauty and peace and freedom in order. In chaos, there is only stress."
I thought about God's words to me for quite some time and wrote this down in my journal.
The beauty of order is that it leaves no room for chaos.
Friend, keeping order in our lives isn't meant to be a burden, it's meant to be a blessing. When I feel the stress in my life rising, I take a quick look around and say, "Alli, reduce your mess, reduce your stress." And then I thank God for reminding me of the beauty of order.
He placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light to the earth. Genesis 1:17
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep . . . And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. Genesis 1:1-5
I have often thought about the fact that God could have created the whole world in one day. But he didn't. Each single day of creation was a miracle. A miracle.
I can easily picture him sitting on the back porch of heaven, sipping a sweet tea and just taking it all in. He wasn't rushing forward into the next day's miracle, or stressing out about what to create next. I doubt he had a "creation to-do list" with color-coded checkboxes. He simply enjoyed the accomplishment of the day; and he did it each and every day of creation.
But we aren't God, and if you're like me (at all!), you probably don't take the time to enjoy the triumphs of today. Instead, you run headlong into the next stress-filled day, your to-do list in hand, ready to cram as much as humanly possible into every second of tomorrow.
Dear friend, today's triumphs are better than tomorrow's to-dos. Let's follow our Creator's example and revel in the miracle of today.
"God thank you that you so lovingly showed us how to enjoy each and every day. Allow us to open our hearts and our minds to the joy that comes with living in the miracle of today. Amen."